Psychological consequences of false-positive screening mammograms in the UK
Objectives To identify the psychological effects of falsepositive screening mammograms in the UK. Methods Systematic review of all controlled studies and qualitative studies of women with a false-positive screening mammogram. The control group participants had normal mammograms. All psychological outcomes including returning for routine screening were permitted. All studies had a narrative synthesis. Results The searches returned seven includable studies (7/4423). Heterogeneity was such that
... a-analysis was not possible. Studies using disease-specific measures found that, compared to normal results, there could be enduring psychological distress that lasted up to 3 years; the level of distress was related to the degree of invasiveness of the assessment. At 3 years the relative risks were, further mammography, 1.28 (95% CI 0.82 to 2.00), fine needle aspiration 1.80 (95% CI 1.17 to 2.77), biopsy 2.07 (95% CI 1.22 to 3.52) and early recall 1.82 (95% CI 1.22 to 2.72). Studies that used generic measures of anxiety and depression found no such impact up to 3 months after screening. Evidence suggests that women with false-positive mammograms have an increased likelihood of failing to reattend for routine screening, relative risk 0.97 (95% CI 0.96 to 0.98) compared with women with normal mammograms. Conclusions Having a false-positive screening mammogram can cause breast cancer-specific distress for up to 3 years. The degree of distress is related to the invasiveness of the assessment. Women with false-positive mammograms are less likely to return for routine assessment than those with normal ones.