Many people are under the assumption that if their report turns out to be a false positive then they are out of the woods, but a new report shows otherwise.
A new study shows that women who get a false positive report are more likely to develop breast cancer over the next decade.
How was the study conducted? “Researchers looked at more than 2 million mammograms that had been performed on women ages 40 to 74 at health clinics across the United States between 1994 and 2009,” according to CNN news.
Researchers found that around 180,000 of the mammograms were false positives, the test detected a tissue abnormality but an additional imaging or biopsy test did not support a cancer diagnosis and the women did not end up getting breast cancer in the year after the mammogram. Experts found that the rest of the tests were true negatives because they did not find anything unusual and were not associated with the development of breast cancer the next year.
CNN explains, “The researchers found that an additional one woman out of 100 who had a false positive mammogram and followed it up with another imaging test went on to develop breast cancer in the next decade, as compared with women who did not have a false positive result.”
Experts also found that in women who had a false positive followed by a biopsy, an additional two out of 100 developed breast cancer in the next couple of years. Louise M. Henderson, an assistant professor of radiology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill led the study.
Henderson said, “Given what we found, I would say that having a false positive (result) definitely does increase your risk for developing breast cancer.”
But scientists also said that false positives are a modest risk factor compared to things such as age or the BRCA gene.
Henderson recommends that’s women with false positives discuss their other risk factors and prevention plans with their doctors.
Dr. Richard Wender, chief cancer control officer for the American Cancer Society, did not take part in the study but he did comment on it. He said, “This study confirms findings from several international studies conducted over the past decade or so that show this association between having had a false positive mammogram with a higher risk of developing breast cancer in the following five to 10 years. I think we can now state with confidence that (it) is in fact a risk factor for developing breast cancer.”
An explanation offered for why women with false positives develop breast cancer was that this suspect tissue found is probably the result of some biological change, such as cells growing more rapidly, which could put predispose women to developing a true cancer in the next decade. Experts are recommending that women with false positives ensure that they on schedule with their mammography and not delay it.