A healthy woman has a routine mammogram to check for signs of breast cancer, and the results aren't normal. Her doctors run more tests, such as imaging or a biopsy. Ultimately, she gets a clean bill of health. But what is the emotional cost of the false-positive result?
This is the question that researchers try to answer in a study published online last week by JAMA Internal Medicine. The authors examined data from a large clinical trial of digital mammography and found that false positives produced a "significant increase in anxiety," though it was only temporary.
The researchers focused on 1,028 women - 494 with a false-positive reading on a mammogram and 534 others of similar age who had clean results. None was diagnosed with breast cancer.
All the women were asked about their anxiety related to their follow-up care and found that 50.6 percent of those in the false-positive group reported "moderate," "a lot," or "extreme" anxiety. The figure for women with normal screens was 15.6 percent. The survey likely underestimated women's anxiety about a false positive. - L.A. Times