False-positive findings in mammography screening induces short-term distress - breast cancer-specific concern prevails longer

Eur J Cancer. 2000 Jun;36(9):1089-97. doi: 10.1016/s0959-8049(00)00065-4.


The aim of this study was to examine psychological distress in a mammography screening process as a consequence of screening after adjusting for background, personality and prescreening distress. Subjects, aged 50 years, were invitees at their first screening. There were three groups; normal findings (n=1407), false-positive findings (n=492) and referents from outside the screening programme (n=1718, age 48-49 years). Distress was measured as illness worry, anxiety, depression, cancer beliefs and early detection behaviour. Measurements were one month before screening invitation with follow-ups at 2 and 12 months postscreening. At 2 months, there was a moderate multivariate effect of group on distress; and intrusive thinking and worry about breast cancer, in particular, were most frequent amongst the false positives. Intrusive thinking still prevailed at 12 months, in addition to a higher perceived breast cancer risk and susceptibility. Distress related to screening and false-positive findings seems to be moderate, but prevailing cancer-specific concerns call for improvements in screening programmes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Attitude to Health
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Depression / etiology
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography / adverse effects
  • Mammography / methods
  • Mammography / psychology*
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mass Screening / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Time Factors