Most women can experience at least one false positive mammogram

Chances are that most women will get at least one false positive mammogram, but luckily, most women who are called back for further testing for a suspicious mammogram will not get cancer.

In response to the recommendation by the Swiss Medical Board to refuse women of all ages to receive routine mammograms, critics criticized it recommended that we should leave it to each woman to make her own judgment when she is informed of the pros and cons, rather than stopping screening programs entirely. “Based on the same information, some women choose to be screened and others don’t.” I totally agree.

When it comes to medical treatments, I think most patients do to understand there are risks and benefits. Medication can have side effects, and surgery can lead to complications. So your decision is based on whether you think the benefits outweigh the risks – but “patients have been taught to think differently about screening. There is no damage. It’s always good to know. It’s just about gathering information. Of course you want it. It’s a brain-dead decision. In reality, the truth is more nuanced. The benefits and harms must be taken into account in the screening – just as in the treatment. “

“The most common damage in mammography screening is a false positive “where they think You see something on the scan, but after further testing, including another x-ray, ultrasound, or biopsy, it turns out it’s nothing. Phew! As I discuss in my video Consequences of false positive mammogram results, that can root cause a “roller coaster of emotions”. Experiencing a false positive result can be an excruciating experience that “could profoundly affect a woman’s life”. Some women can experience Depression, anxiety, and lack of sleep over it, even months later. Even after the all-clear, breast cancer concerns can persist for a year or more. Aside from the psychological effects, if a biopsy is required, post-procedure pain can sometimes last for days or weeks, even if local anesthesia is used during the procedure.

“These adverse consequences want Be less of concern when false positive mammograms were a rare occurrence. ”Unfortunately, most women will experience at least one false positive mammogram within ten years of the annual screening. The likelihood of having a single mammogram to produce a false positive in North America is only about 10 to 14 percent, but that’s much higher than, for example, in Europe, where it’s only about 1 in 20 or 1 in 50. Why the discrepancy? It’s believed that American radiologists are so scared of being sued for malpractice that the bar they use is much lower, and that seems fine for a lot of women. Many upon request felt it would be worth it for ten thousand women to go through false positives if it would save a life, and this opinion was shared by many women who had experienced false positives themselves and therefore had first hand knowledge. In fact, most women don’t even want to consider false positives when deciding whether to screen – but some women do.

For some women walk false positives isn’t a big deal, but for others it can be really scary. Some women who were interviewed during the process were described than in a state of “emotional chaos” in the face of a possible cancer diagnosis. Some women found it particularly difficult to wait for the results because they kept thinking about them. After it was over, many women could just wipe it off while others Experienced “Persistent fear”, even though they were given the all-clear.

Have studies noticed increased anxiety on average even months after being recalled for a suspicious mammogram that turned out to be nothing. In fact, a study of hundreds of women who had a false positive found that some appeared to suffer from the consequences years later. The women were followed “for a period of three years after they were declared cancer-free,” and the experience still seemed to haunt them. So maybe we shouldn’t just dismiss these false positives. Regardless, women should be informed and reassured that most women who are called back for further investigation of a suspicious mammogram result will not end up with cancer after all. This can calm their minds down a bit while they go through the process and wait for the final results.

There is just so much confusion, coupled with the corrupting commercial interests of a billion dollar industry, when it comes to this topic. As with any major health decision, everyone should be fully informed about the risks and benefits and form their own opinion about their own body. This is the fifth part of my 14-part series on mammograms. For the others see:


  • Critics of the Swiss Medical Board’s decision not to recommend routine breast mammograms at any age suggested that every woman should decide whether or not to undergo screening after learning about the pros and cons.
  • For example, while most patients understand that prescription drugs can have negative side effects and surgery can have complications, screenings have been presented as benign information-gathering tools with no potential harm.
  • The most common damage in mammography screening is a false-positive result, which often leads to further examinations, more x-rays, ultrasound or biopsy and can cause emotional distress even months later.
  • Most women will have at least one false-positive mammogram done within ten years of their annual screening.
  • Studies have shown increased anxiety levels occur months and even years after a recall for a suspicious mammogram that ultimately turned out to be nothing.

You can find more information about breast cancer in my videos Oxidized cholesterol 27HC can explain three secrets of breast cancer, Eggs and breast cancer and Flashback Friday: Can Flaxseed Prevent Breast Cancer?

I was able to cover colon cancer screening in just one video. If you missed it, see Should we all have a colonoscopy over the age of 50?

You can also find information on medical check-ups here Flashback Friday: Is It Worth Getting an Annual Health Checkup and Physical Exam?, Are annual health checks worthwhile? and Is it worth doing an annual physical exam?.

In health,

Michael Greger, MD

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