False-Positive Mammogram May Not Be False

Mammograms using specialized computer software to pinpoint suspicious areas have been found to be ineffective, according to a new study.

 

The risk of breast cancer "remained significantly elevated from 6 to more than 12 years after a false-positive test result," according to a study done by My von Euler-Chelpin, PhD of the University of Copenhagen and colleagues. MedPage Today, reporting on the research, noted that this may be due to underlying pathology or initial misclassification.

The researchers published their findings in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. "It may be beneficial to actively encourage women with false-positive tests to continue to attend regular screening," they recommended. They did acknowledge, however, that this approach could cause increased anxiety. They also conceded that the increased risk may simply reflect cancers that had been missed when older diagnostic tools were used. 

Those reservations notwithstanding, however, the authors pointed out that suspicious patterns in breast tissue may eventually develop into detectable cancer. "Even with newer screening methods, women with false-positive tests should be encouraged to use regular mammographic screening because a false-positive test may indicate underlying pathology that could result in breast cancer," the team concluded.

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