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J Med Screen. 2001;8(4):213-9.

Anxiety in a cohort of Swiss women participating in a mammographic screening programme.

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  • 1Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (IUMSP), School of Medicine, Bugnon 17, University of Lausanne, CH-1005 Lausanne, Switzerland.



To follow up anxiety in a cohort of women screened for breast cancer.


Within the framework of a pilot screening programme for breast cancer in the Canton of Vaud (Switzerland), a cohort of 924 participants aged 50-70 years were invited to answer questions on anxiety related to mammography screening. Anxiety was measured using a specific tool, the psychological consequences questionnaire (PCQ), and a new single item, direct question, breast cancer anxiety indicator (BCA). Participants were asked to fill in the questionnaire at four different phases: at screening, before the result, and 2 and 8 weeks after the result. The final response rate was 93.7%. Predictors of anxiety at each phase were assessed using multiple regression.


Among those screening negative (94.7%), anxiety at screening was very low and remained so during the screening process. Among those screening false positive, anxiety was significantly higher 8 weeks after having received a negative diagnosis. Predictors of anxiety before screening were lower education and higher age, with a strong exogenous anxiety component. For subsequent phases, the initial anxiety score and education were the main determinants. Furthermore, a false positive result at screening was the most important predictor of anxiety 2 months after negative diagnosis. Anxiety measured with the BCA was strongly correlated with the PCQ.


Anxiety was very low at screening and remained so during the process for negative women. Initial anxiety level was a strong predictor of anxiety during the entire process, up to 8 weeks after a negative result, and could be easily assessed using the BCA. The sustained higher anxiety level among those screening false positive is an undesirable side effect of the programme.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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