False-positive mammography results have harmful psychological effects

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Unintended Harmful Effects of Mammography Studied
Unintended Harmful Effects of Mammography Studied

(HealthDay News) -- A false-positive test result from screening mammography is not harmless and can result in negative long-term psychosocial consequences, according to research published in the March/April issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

John Brodersen, M.D., Ph.D., and Volkert Dirk Siersma, Ph.D., of the University of Copenhagen, used the Consequences of Screening in Breast Cancer questionnaire to gather data from 454 women with abnormal findings on screening mammography. The data were then compared to 908 women with normal findings.

According to the researchers, at six months after final diagnosis of being cancer-free, women with false-positive findings reported changes in existential values and inner calmness similar to those reported by women with a positive diagnosis of breast cancer. At three years after final diagnosis of being cancer-free, women with false-positive findings continued to report greater negative psychosocial consequences in all twelve psychosocial outcomes compared to women who had normal findings.

"False-positive screening mammography causes long-term psychosocial harm," the authors write. "In a period of three years after being declared free of cancer suspicion, women with false positives consistently reported greater negative psychosocial consequences compared with women with normal findings. The first half-year after final diagnosis, women with false positives reported changes just as great in existential values and inner calmness as women with breast cancer."

The study was partially funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

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