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False-Positive Mammogram Results Leading To Negative Psychological Impact In Women (VIDEO)

Mar 19, 2013 11:28 AM EDT
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More than half of abnormal mammograms, usually thought to be a sign of breast cancer, turn out to be false positives, a new study reports, and it's leading to undue psychological stress in women.

Sixty percent of abnormal mammograms turnout out be false positives - not cancer at all, even though women often undergo biopsies or surgery as a result of the false tests, ABC News reported.

As many as 10,000 women who have a breast biopsy as a result of an abnormal mammogram end up having the results of the biopsy misread, the report stated.

Getting a second opinion in the face of any major diagnosis is a good idea.

"The best doctors are going to welcome another set of eyes," said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC's chief medical and health editor.

Women who have false-positive results are suffering from lingering anxiety and distress, the new study shows.

The lengthy emotional fallout is probably "because the abnormal screening result is seen as a threat to your own mortality," said study author Dr. John Brodersen.

Women were surveyed over a three-year period and given biannual questionnaires about their psychological state including their sense of calmness, whether they had anxiety about breast cancer and whether they felt optimistic about the future.

Six months after the final diagnosis and again at the three-years-later mark, women with false-positive results showed more negative psychological consequences than women with normal findings.

The findings prompt more discussion over the frequent inaccuracy of mammograms and how doctors recommend who should be screened and how often mammogram screening should occur.

The report is published in the March-April issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

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