A new study has found that women suspected of having breast cancer tend to delay future mammograms after their first test was a false positive. Furthermore, some women do not even show up for their next screening, which decreases the chance of an early future diagnosis.
The study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, was conducted on more than 261,000 women from the greater Chicago area. The study reveals that false positives have several unintended consequences which can alter the behavior of women regarding mammogram tests.
Researchers found that in the situations where women were recommended to have a test every year, those who received an initial false positive tended to delay their next test by up to 13 months, while women who had a direct negative result scheduled their next test between three to six months.
This delay could lead to reduced chances of survival if the breast cancer is subsequently diagnosed. Scientists revealed that the women who did not receive a false positive test result had a 0.3 percent of being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer tumor. However, for women with false positive tests, the chances increased to 0.4 percent.
Throughout their study, the researchers also found that some of the women never showed for their next mammogram at all. However, it is unclear whether they gave up on being tested for breast cancer or if they just received the test somewhere else.
The lead author of the study, Firas Dabbous working at the Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, Illinois, revealed the delicate balance that is required in breast cancer diagnosis. While early detection offers the best chances of successful treatment, they also don’t want to bother women with increased number of false positive results followed by painful and expensive tests like biopsies.
In this regard, a debate has arisen whether or not the benefit of breast cancer screening outweighs the possible emotional and financial costs of the tests. A mammogram has a one in ten chance of producing a false positive result. Furthermore, an estimated 7 to 17 percent of all false positive women will end up having a biopsy.
What do you think about the study’s findings?
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