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Incorrect results in mammography can have serious consequences
Many women regularly do a mammogram to protect themselves from breast cancer. However, it can happen that mammography reveals suspicious findings that cannot later be attributed to cancer. Researchers have now found that false findings from previous mammograms often result in women neglecting their future exams or not going at all. This has a big impact on the likelihood of survival if breast cancer really occurs afterwards.
During an investigation, the scientists at the Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge found that faulty mammograms can lead to the fact that affected women frequently do not show up after further misdiagnosis or delay them massively. The scientists published their study in the journal "Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention".
Fears of incorrect mammography lead to difficulties in further tests
When women were advised to take a mammogram each year, the fear of incorrect mammography tended to delay their next test by another 13 months, the authors explain. For women with only negative tests, the tests were only delayed by about three to six months for comparison. In women without a previous misdiagnosis, the probability that an advanced tumor would be diagnosed was 0.3 percent. In women with a misdiagnosis, the value was slightly but still significantly increased and was 0.4 percent. A mammogram is an examination that is supposed to detect tumors. However, it can have a negative impact on the psyche of women if there is a misdiagnosis or an unsubstantiated suspected cancer, the doctors say.
Misdiagnosis can lead to a biopsy
Mammograms can lead to false positive results. Affected women then often suffer from unfounded fears. In addition, these misdiagnoses often result in further expensive and sometimes painful tests, such as a biopsy. There has been some debate over whether these negative effects outweigh the benefits of screening.
More research is needed
In the opinion of the researchers, if the results are confirmed by other studies, additional attention is urgently needed. This ensures that women with false findings are reminded that they are taking part in their regular examinations, the experts explain.
Seven to 17 percent of women affected receive an unnecessary biopsy
In the vast majority of cases, if a mammography device has found something suspicious, it is not a threat. In mammography, approximately one in ten tests performed is incorrectly positive. So to speak, women with an annual mammogram have a 50 to 50 chance of finding a false positive over a decade, the doctors say. An estimated seven to 17 percent of these women are then biopsied.
Physicians examine 741,150 screening mammograms for their study
For their investigation, the researchers analyzed 741,150 screening mammograms, which had previously been carried out by a large health organization. In 12.3 percent of the cases, suspicious results were ultimately a false alarm. During the three years after this initial mammography, 77.9 percent of the women with a false positive had a subsequent mammography, compared to 85.0 percent of the women who had no erroneous results in their examination, the scientists explain.
After an unnecessary biopsy, women no longer regularly come to mammography
It seemed to play a big role whether a biopsy was done on women. Women with an incorrect diagnosis and subsequent biopsy were less likely to have further mammograms. Those affected were 19 percent less likely to get regular mammography again. Mammography screenings are currently the only tool that really works. There are some limitations, but such an examination increases women's survivability through early detection of cancer, the authors say. (as)