Prior mammograms influence breast cancer screening adherence after false-positives

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The amount of time since a patient’s last mammogram is associated with future adherence to breast cancer screening recommendations following a false-positive finding, according to results of a new study presented today at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Women who receive annual mammography screenings for breast cancer have a 61 percent chance of receiving a false-positive result after 10 screenings, with the chance of a false-positive for women receiving a mammogram every two years at 42 percent.

These findings often have a negative impact on patients, said senior author Louise Henderson, PhD, of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.

“False positives can cause anxiety and stress, and it often means additional costs and time off from work,” she said in a university press release. “There is the potential for these factors to influence the subsequent screening behavior of women. It’s important to remember that breast cancer screening works best when guidelines are followed and women get screened on schedule.”

Henderson and his colleagues examined screening data collected from the Carolina Mammography Registry for 14,071 women aged 40 to 64 years to investigate whether patients who received a false-positive later received a mammogram within nine months to two years.

Their analysis revealed that women who received a false-positive result were 23 percent less likely to get another mammogram within two years if their previous exam was within one to three years of the false positive exam, while those who had their last mammogram more than three years prior to the false-positive finding were 80 percent more likely to have a screening mammogram within two years.

“We found that a false-positive result may reduce the likelihood of a woman returning for her next planned screening mammogram if her prior mammogram was within 1 to 3 years,” Henderson said. “But it may increase her likelihood to return if her most recent mammogram was more than 3 years prior.”