Women who experience a false positive mammogram were more likely to delay their subsequent screening, potentially increasing the risk of having late stage breast cancer at diagnosis, a study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.1

Although previous research has demonstrated that false positive screening mammograms have economic, physical, and emotional impacts, it is unclear how they influence future screening behavior.

To assess the impact of false positive screening mammogram on the subsequent screening mammography behavior, researchers analyzed data from 650,232 women who had true negative screening mammograms and 261,767 women with false positive mammograms. Researchers defined a delay in obtaining subsequent screening as any mammogram performed more than 12 months from the index mammogram.

Results showed that women experiencing a true negative result were significantly more likely to undergo a subsequent mammogram than those who had a false positive result (85.0% vs 77.9%; P <.001).

Researchers also found that the median time from the index mammogram to a subsequent mammogram was 13 months for women with a false positive result vs 3 months for women with a true negative result (P <.001).

In addition, women with a true negative screening mammogram were 36% more likely to undergo a subsequent screening within the 36 months after the index mammogram than women with a false positive result (hazard ratio 1.36; 95% CI, 1.35-1.37).

A prior false positive experience significantly increased the 4-year cumulative risk of having late stage breast cancer at the time of diagnosis compared with a prior true negative mammogram (P <.001).

The findings ultimately suggest that an initial false positive screening mammogram may have negative effects on the early detection of breast cancer, potentially resulting in worse clinical outcomes. Additional strategies are needed to improve breast cancer screening for women who experience a false positive result.

Reference

1. Dabbous FM, Dolecek TA, Berbaum ML, et al. Impact of a false-positive screening mammogram on subsequent screening behavior and stage at breast cancer diagnosis. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2017 Feb 9. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-16-0524 [Epub ahead of print]