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False Positive Mammograms Leads to Months of Mental Distress

Update Date: Mar 19, 2013 09:55 AM EDT

The American Cancer Society recommends that women should ideally start getting yearly mammograms once they turn 40-years-old. A new research study, however, suggests otherwise. In the study done by researchers from Denmark, they found that false positive mammograms could inflict severe damage to the patient's mental state, even after finding out that she or he was cancer free. The researchers concluded that false positive mammograms needed to be monitored better to prevent these detrimental side effects.

The study was headed by physician-researcher Dr. John Brodersen of the University of Copenhagen. Brodersen found that women who were told that they had breast cancer and then told that their mammograms were faulty suffered from increased levels of negative psychological side effects. He found that even after six months and up to three years, women who have had false positive mammograms suffered from changes in their "existential values" and "inner calmness," factors that Brodersen measured. These women stated that they felt more pessimistic about the world and more anxious. This group also reported increased complications in both their sex lives and their sleeping habits.

The research team looked at the reaction of 454 Danish women who all had something abnormal in their mammograms in comparison to the reaction of 908 women who had cancer-free mammograms. Based from the survey answers from this 13-year long study, Brodersen found that the women's psyches from the first group changed a great deal. He recommends that medical facilities and doctors should really think about the consequences of the frequency of mammograms administered.

Brodersen concluded that although mammograms can be helpful in detecting breast cancer, the screening process and programs might need to be fixed in order to prevent these false positives. It was due to the concerns behind these faulty results that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force decided to recommend a later start date for mammograms. The task force stated that women should ideally get mammograms every two years starting from the age of 50.

The research study was published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

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