High risk of false positive results with breast screening

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 25 April 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1261
  1. Deborah Josefson
  1. San Francisco

    Women who are screened annually for breast cancer over 10 years run a cumulative risk of receiving false positive results up to 50% of the time, according to a US study. This high false positive rate leads to increased healthcare costs and unnecessary emotional distress for the women.

    The retrospective cohort study tracked the incidence of false positive results among regularly scheduled mammographic examinations and clinical breast examinations in 2400 healthy women over a 10 year period (New England Journal of Medicine 1998;338:1089-96). A false positive result was defined as a suspicious or abnormal finding which after one year of follow up (through additional imaging, second opinion, or biopsy) failed to reveal a tumour.

    In all, 9762 mammographic …

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