"Getting tested often/regulary is important"
While screening mammograms aren't perfect, they are the best way we have right now to detect breast cancer early, when it's most treatable.
When a screening mammogram shows an abnormal area that looks like a cancer but turns out to be normal, it's called a false positive. Ultimately the news is good: no breast cancer. But the suspicious area usually requires follow-up with more than one doctor, extra tests, and extra procedures, including a possible biopsy.
A large study suggests that women with false-positive mammogram results have a slightly higher risk of developing invasive breast cancer within the next 10 years.
The research was published online on Dec. 2, 2015 by the Journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Read the abstract of "Increased Risk of Developing Breast Cancer after a False-Positive Screening Mammogram." To do the study, the researchers looked at information from nearly 1.3 million women ages 40 to 70 with no family history of breast cancer who had screening mammograms from 1994 to 2009. The information came from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium database, which is maintained by the National Cancer Institute. .
The researchers found that the 1,297,906 women had a total of 2,207,942 screening mammograms. There were:
Women ages 40 to 49 made up the largest percentage of false-positive mammogram results with a recommendation for more imaging (33.1%). Women with dense breasts also were more likely to have false-positive results. The researchers then compared the rates of invasive breast cancer between women who had false-positive mammogram results and women who had negative mammogram results:
The researchers said the 10-year risk of invasive breast cancer was: 1) 39% higher in women with false-positive results with a recommendation for more imaging; 2) 76% higher in women with false-positive results with a recommendation for biopsy compared to women with negative results. It's important to know that the increases above are increases in relative risk -- the risk of a woman with a false-positive result relative to the risk of a woman with a negative result. In terms of absolute risk, the increase is small: 1) women with false-positive results have about a 2% risk of developing invasive disease in the 10 years after the false-positive result; 2) women with negative results have about a 1% risk of developing invasive disease in the 10 years after the negative result.
The researchers didn't offer an explanation about why false-positive mammogram results appear to be linked to a slightly higher risk of invasive disease. Many experts think that the subtle changes suggested on the mammogram may be an early clue to cancer before actual cancer exists. It's also important to know that this association has been suggested in other studies. But the large number of women in the study and the length of follow-up add more evidence that the link between false-positive results and a somewhat higher risk of invasive disease actually exists.
There's only one of you and you deserve the best care possible. Don't let any obstacles get in the way of your regular screening mammograms, especially if you've had a false-positive result.
SOURCE: Journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, December 2, 2015. Synopsis and analysis by breastcancer.org.