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Dartmouth researchers: Anxiety over false-positive mammogram is temporary

LEBANON — Dartmouth researchers say the anxiety experienced with a false-positive mammogram is temporary and does not negatively impact a woman’s overall well-being.

The findings “Consequences of False-Positive Screening Mammograms,” was published online Monday on the JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers met with women shortly after they had mammograms. Some of the test subjects had negative mammogram results clearing them of cancer, others had test results that possibly detected cancer or were unclear, but needed further tests such as another mammography, an ultra-sound or a biopsy. The same women were interviewed a year later.

During the initial interviews, “We found a measurable increase in anxiety, general personal anxiety, in the woman who were in the false-positive group,” a principal author of the study, Anna N. A. Tosteson, said Tuesday. “We saw a year later they had no difference in anxiety with people who had the false-positive and people who didn’t.”

A false-positive result did not have an effect on the woman’s general sense of well-being or quality of life, she said.

And while it may have caused temporary anxiety, a false-positive result made woman more likely to screen in the future.

“It didn’t dissuade women from screenings in the future. Woman said they would be more likely to screen in the future more often when they had this experience as opposed to not,” Tosteson said.

Tosteson said it’s important for woman to know that anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of women who undergo routine screening mammography during a 10-year period will experience a false-positive mammogram.

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