False Positive Mammography

Any positive result from a breast imaging scan can cause anxiety, fear, stress, and other adverse emotional responses.

A mammogram is a breast imaging procedure that is recommended for women in order to detect breast cancer. A machine scans a woman’s breast, and a radiologist inspects the image looking for signs that the disease may be present.

False Positives on Mammogram Results are Common

Unfortunately, the results from a mammogram are far from infallible. In fact, one study shows that over a ten-year period, between 40% and 60% of women undergoing an annual breast scan will encounter what is known as a “false positive” test. This means the mammogram will indicate that breast cancer is evident, but the result is eventually disproved by further tests such as a breast biopsy.

Naturally, any positive result from a breast imaging scan can cause anxiety, fear, stress, and other adverse emotional responses. But there is a new study that indicates that false positive tests from mammograms may have a silver lining.

Research on Mammogram False Positives

This research was conducted by the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, which studied mammogram results from the American College of Radiology Imaging Network over a decade-long period. Out of 1,028 participants who engaged in follow-up surveys, a total of 494 experienced at least one false positive result from a breast imaging scan.

The institute queried the false positive recipients about their anxiety levels after hearing about the test results. Not surprisingly, 50.6 percent rated their anxiety level as “moderate or higher,” and other 4.6 percent classified their amount of anxiety as “extreme.”

What caught the attention of the researchers were the women’s attitudes toward future breast cancer screenings. One might reason that after undergoing an uncomfortable procedure and experiencing anxiety over dealing with a false positive result, these women may be prone to avoid getting mammograms in the future. But in reality, 25.7 percent of the patients who received a false positive result indicated that they were “more likely” to submit to future breast cancer screenings – which was considerably higher than the 14.2 percent of women who had negative test results.

What it All Means for Your Patients

Given these findings, one might conclude that the anxiety of receiving a false positive mammogram test result is outweighed by the heightened resolve to receiving future breast imaging procedures in order to lower the risk of being victimized by breast cancer. The researchers note that the study might be used to ensure that mammography patients receive better information about the outcomes of their tests.

SteleRAD is proud to have four breast imaging radiology specialists on staff: Dr. Michael Alboucrek, Dr. Deborah Guilbaud, Dr. Lisa Abrams, and Dr. Terrence Barret. They’ve all been certified by the American Board of Radiology, and they remain fully committed to providing high-quality, patient-centered care. SteleRAD’s breast imaging radiologists are completely qualified to fulfill your facility’s mammography, breast MRI or ultrasound, stereotactic-guided breast biopsy, core needle biopsy, tumor or silicone implant studies, cyst aspiration, fine needle aspirations, and pre-operative needle localization needs. Plus, these physicians realize the importance of educating patients about all the ramifications of their test results.

For more information on how SteleRAD’s radiologists can help your breast imaging center, visit our Web site or give us a call at 954-358-5250.