Research Looks to Lower Breast Screening False-Positives

New technology and better screening strategies can lower the rate of false-positive mammography results, which impose a substantial financial and psychological burden on women. The many misperceptions about breast cancer screening options and risks, the benefits and costs of screening, and the need for new approaches and better education are discussed in a series of articles in a supplement to the Journal of Women's Health, a peer-reviewed publication from Mary Ann Liebert publishers. The supplement is available free on the Journal of Women's Health website.

In the article "The Patient Burden of Screening Mammography Recall," the authors report that among more than 1.7 million women aged 40 to 75 who underwent screening mammography and were not diagnosed with breast cancer, 15% were recalled for further testing. The cumulative risk of a false-positive result after 10 years of annual screening mammograms is an estimated 61%. Researchers evaluated the direct cost burden of recall, the indirect costs associated with missed work time, travel, and the physical or psychological effects of a false-positive result, which may include unnecessary anxiety and reduced quality of life.

In an accompanying review article, "Understanding Patient Options, Utilization Patterns, and Burdens Associated with Breast Cancer Screening," researchers attributed much of the confusion women face in making informed decisions about breast cancer screening and recall options to a lack of consensus among the organizations developing screening guidelines and the mixed messages they deliver. The authors call for a more thoughtful approach to breast cancer screening and research that takes into account the tangible and intangible costs women now bear.

"The direct and indirect cost burden of inconclusive mammography screenings and recalls is significant and indicates a need for new approaches to breast cancer screening," says Susan G. Kornstein, MD, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Women's Health, executive director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Women's Health and president of the Academy of Women's Health.
SOURCE: Mary Ann Liebert