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Ann Fam Med. 2013 Mar-Apr;11(2):106-15. doi: 10.1370/afm.1466.

Long-term psychosocial consequences of false-positive screening mammography.

Author information

  • 1Research Unit and Section of General Practice, Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. john.brodersen@sund.ku.dk

Abstract

PURPOSE:

Cancer screening programs have the potential of intended beneficial effects, but they also inevitably have unintended harmful effects. In the case of screening mammography, the most frequent harm is a false-positive result. Prior efforts to measure their psychosocial consequences have been limited by short-term follow-up, the use of generic survey instruments, and the lack of a relevant benchmark-women with breast cancer.

METHODS:

In this cohort study with a 3-year follow-up, we recruited 454 women with abnormal findings in screening mammography over a 1-year period. For each woman with an abnormal finding on a screening mammogram (false and true positives), we recruited another 2 women with normal screening results who were screened the same day at the same clinic. These participants were asked to complete the Consequences of Screening in Breast Cancer-a validated questionnaire encompassing 12 psychosocial outcomes-at baseline, 1, 6, 18, and 36 months.

RESULTS:

Six months after final diagnosis, women with false-positive findings reported changes in existential values and inner calmness as great as those reported by women with a diagnosis of breast cancer (Δ = 1.15; P = .015; and Δ = 0.13; P = .423, respectively). Three years after being declared free of cancer, women with false-positive results consistently reported greater negative psychosocial consequences compared with women who had normal findings in all 12 psychosocial outcomes (Δ >0 for 12 of 12 outcomes; P <.01 for 4 of 12 outcomes).

CONCLUSION:

False-positive findings on screening mammography causes long-term psychosocial harm: 3 years after a false-positive finding, women experience psychosocial consequences that range between those experienced by women with a normal mammogram and those with a diagnosis of breast cancer.

PMID:
23508596
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3601385
Free PMC Article
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