Women who have a false-positive mammogram experience psychosocial consequences that range between those experienced by women with a normal mammogram and those with breast cancer for as long as three years.
Researchers created a cohort study among 454 women with abnormal findings in screening mammography over a 1-year period. Women with false and true positives on a screening mammogram were matched to two women with normal results who were screened the same day at the same clinic. Participants answered a questionnaire of 12 psychosocial outcomes at baseline and months 1, 6, 18 and 36.
Results appeared at the Annals of Family Medicine.
Six months after the final diagnosis, women with false-positive findings reported changes in existential values (delta=1.15; P=.015) and inner calmness (delta=0.13; P=.423) as great as those reported by women with a diagnosis of breast cancer. Women with false-positive results consistently reported greater negative psychosocial consequences compared with women who had normal findings in all 12 psychosocial outcomes (delta greater than 0 for 12 of 12 outcomes; P less than .01 for 4 of 12 outcomes) for as long as three years after being cleared of cancer.
Women who had false positives reported statistically greater negative consequences at one month for the outcomes of dejection, anxiety, behavior, sleep, breast examination, sexuality, attractiveness and focus as women who had normal findings, but had significantly less-negative consequences than women with breast cancer. At 6, 18 and 36 months, women with breast cancer had greater negative psychosocial consequences than women with false positives, who in turn experienced greater negative psychosocial consequences than women with normal findings.
There was no statistically significant difference in regards to inner calm and existential values between women with false positives and those with breast cancer as long as 6 months. Researchers wrote, "These findings imply that the degree of change in inner calmness and existential values within the first half-year after final diagnosis were just as great for women with breast cancer as for women receiving false-positive findings, and that changes in existential values within 3 years were still greater for those having false positives compared with those with normal findings."