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Mammography screening and false positives

This article was originally published in The Gray Sheet

Executive Summary

Physicians who counsel women about breast cancer screening need to convey that the cumulative risk of a false positive is nearly 50% after 10 mammograms and 22% after 10 clinical breast examinations, Joann Elmore, MD/MPH, University of Washington School of Medicine, et al., conclude in a study published in the April 16 New England Journal of Medicine. Measures should be developed to minimize the associated psychological and economic costs of false positives; one suggested method is to use on-site radiologists to obtain immediate work-ups rather than requiring women to return for follow-up diagnostic procedures. The conclusions are based on a 10-year, retrospective cohort study of 2,400 women age 40-69 enrolled at a large New England HMO in which a total of 9,762 screening mammograms and 10,905 clinical breast examinations were performed. Researchers found the risk of false positives to be higher in the 40-49 group than for women 50 and older



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