Mammography: are false positive results common? • Health Congress 2022

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Detection of changes in a mammogram is not synonymous with diagnosis. A study from the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) concluded that false positive results are common in mammography. According to an article published in the newspaper JAMA network openhalf of the women will receive at least one false positive during a decade of annual mammograms.

A false positive result occurs when the test detects changes interpreted as a possible tumor that are not confirmed after performing other tests. For example, the assessment is considered false if the presence of cancer is not identified within a year after the first examination.

“To detect breast cancer early, we need to be careful and examine any potentially abnormal findings. So women should not be worried if they are called in for additional imaging tests or biopsies. The vast majority of these results turn out to be benign,” Thao explained -Quyen Ho, a radiologist who co-authored the research.

Which mammogram gives the fewest false positives?

The study also showed that three-dimensional (3D) mammography technology, known as breast tomosynthesis, produces fewer misjudgments than standard mammography. The cumulative probability of receiving at least one false positive in ten-year annual exams was 6.7% lower for tomosynthesis than for traditional technology.

Standard mammography only produces an image of the breast tissue, while 3D captures it from different angles. (Source: Shutterstock / Reproduction)

Michael Bissell, epidemiologist and co-author of the article, says that screening technology is not the most important factor to consider when performing the test, as it has not had much of an impact on reducing false positives. “The results of our study highlight the importance of discussions between patients and providers about personal health. It is important to consider patient preferences and risk factors when deciding on screening interval and modality,” Bissell said.

What is the difference between 3D and standard mammography?

While traditional digital mammography encompasses all breast tissue in a single image, 3D imaging takes multiple shots at different angles, leading to higher quality, accuracy, and the ability to detect small tumors.

To produce a single image of the breast, the standard examination compresses it between two metal plates for a few seconds, vertically and horizontally, a procedure that is quite painful for some people.

Psychological influence is the main consequence of false positive

The false positive result does not cause the person to incorrectly undergo treatment, as more tests are needed to confirm or disprove the diagnosis. Yet there are psychological and financial consequences.

“Despite the important benefit of screening mammograms to reduce breast cancer mortality, it can lead to additional imaging and biopsy procedures, financial costs and opportunity costs, and patient anxiety,” said Diana Miglioretti, professor and co-author of the study.

The simple detection of changes in mammography does not mean diagnosis, which requires further examinations and medical follow-up.
The simple detection of changes in mammography does not mean diagnosis, which requires further examinations and medical follow-up. (Source: Shutterstock / Reproduction)

The researchers point out that the risk of a false positive result is significantly lower over a decade if the mammogram is performed every two years instead of one year. In this range, evaluation errors are less likely if 3D mammography is used.

Also read:

Pandemic affected early diagnosis in women

Breast cancer: prevention is the best weapon against the disease

Women’s health: the importance of medical care.

Do you want to know more? See here the statement and explanation from our partners health specialists.

Source: Science Daily, Drauzio Varella, JAMA Network, Inca.

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