False-Positive Mammogram Results Affect Quality of Life

Women should be warned of the potential emotional side effects of breast cancer screening

TUESDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Women who receive false-positive results from routine breast cancer screenings may experience a low quality of life and feelings of anxiety for at least one year, according to a study published online Dec. 20 in the British Journal of Surgery.

Alida F.W. van der Steeg, M.D., from the St. Elisabeth Hospital in Lilburg, Netherlands, and colleagues conducted a longitudinal study, measuring the quality of life of 385 women diagnosed with breast disease, between September 2002 and January 2007. Of these women, 152 were correctly diagnosed with breast cancer and 233 women had false-positive mammogram results. Anxiety and quality of life were assessed in these women before diagnosis and during the 12 months following.

The researchers found that significantly more histological biopsies were required in the false-positive group. Almost 60 percent of the false-positive group revisited the outpatient clinic during the first year. Women in the false-positive group with the highest scores on trait anxiety scored lowest on the quality-of-life assessment, and they reported more feelings of anxiety, compared to women with lower trait anxiety scores in either the false-positive or breast cancer groups.

"Women deserve more balanced information to help them choose whether or not to accept an invitation for screening mammography. This should not only focus on the supposed benefits, but should include potential side effects, such as increased feelings of anxiety," the authors write.

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