A new study says that women who received false-positive mammograms report, face serious anxiety and reduced quality of life for at least a year.
Researchers from The Netherlands show that patients with false-positive results - where the mammogram is abnormal but no cancer is present - had to undergo more diagnostic procedures than women with breast cancer before they were given the all clear.
They spoke to 385 women with abnormal mammogram results - 152 were subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer, but the other 233 had false-positive results and did not have cancer.
"The women who received false-positives in our study experienced a significant reduction in their quality of life, especially if they were prone to anxiety, and the effects of this lasted at least a year," said lead author Lideke van der Steeg, Tilburg University.
"In fact, women who had a tendency to be anxious fared much worse if they received a false-positive - which is estimated to happen in 60 per cent of abnormal mammograms - than if they were actually diagnosed with breast cancer," he added.
Women with abnormal mammograms attending three hospitals over a five-year period were invited to participate. Their quality of life (QoL) was assessed using the World Health Organization's Quality of Life instrument 100.
Clinical data were obtained from the women's medical records and they were also asked to complete questionnaires providing demographic information such as age, marital status, education and socioeconomic status.
The study was published online by BJS, the British Journal of Surgery.