Intended for healthcare professionals


Value of breast imaging in women with painful breasts

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 10 April 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1009

Negative results are not reassuring

  1. Richard D Neal, Lecturer in primary care research. (,
  2. Stephen Morley, Professor of clinical psychology.
  1. Centre for Research in Primary Care, Nuffield Institute for Health, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9PL
  2. Division of Psychiatry and Behavioural Science in Relation to Medicine, University of Leeds
  3. Breast Services Directorate, City Hospital, Nottingham NG12 3RE

    EDITOR—Duijm et al conclude that the primary value of breast imaging in women with painful breasts seems to be that of reassurance, as no abnormalities are usually detected.1 Had they measured the level of reassurance that their negative results provided, it seems unlikely they would have come to this conclusion.

    There is increasing evidence that negative results of tests at best provide little reassurance and at worst can increase anxiety levels and do considerable harm.24 A recent review concluded that “medical reassurance as currently practised …

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