False Positive Mammograms Can Lead To Psychological Distress Regardless of Whether Diagnostic Procedures Are Required

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Bruno M. Heleno MD
The Research Unit for General Practice and Section of General Practice
Department of Public Health
University of Copenhagen

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Heleno: False positive mammography causes psychological distress. Several observational studies have shown this, and their results have been summarized in systematic reviews. However, it was unclear whether women requiring invasive tests (needle or surgical biopsy) were more distressed than women only requiring non-invasive procedures (clinical examination or imaging). Contrary to previous research, we found that these two groups of women were equally distressed during the 36 months of follow-up in our cohort. The best estimate for the difference for 12 related measures of distress was always close to zero.


Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Heleno: The nature of the diagnostic tests after false-positive mammography does not help to identify the women that are most distressed. Thus, interventions to limit the psychosocial harm of mammography screening should focus on reducing the total number of false-positive tests because these findings demonstrate that women who require only clinical examination and additional imaging experience the same degree of distress as women who undergo invasive procedures.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Heleno: There is still very little research about the psychological consequences of false-positive screening, although they are probably some of the most common harms of screening. Researchers still need to find what is the minimal clinically important difference for the measures of distress that have been used in research, because that would help clinicians make sense of the research results. Researchers also need to describe the psychological consequence of other screening programmes, e.g. lung cancer screening, where invasiveness of diagnostic tests may actually influence the degree of psychological distress.

Citation:

Diagnostic Invasiveness and Psychosocial Consequences of False-Positive Mammography
Ann Fam Med May/June 2015 13:242-249; doi:10.1370/afm.176

Bruno Heleno, Volkert Dirk Siersma, and John Brodersen

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MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Bruno M. Heleno MD, The Research Unit for General Practice and Section of General Practice, Department of Public Health, & University of Copenhagen (2015). False Positive Mammograms Can Lead To Psychological Distress Regardless of Whether Diagnostic Procedures Are Required MedicalResearch.com

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