False-positive results in neuroblastoma screening: the parents' view

J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2003 Jan;25(1):14-8. doi: 10.1097/00043426-200301000-00005.


Purpose: One of the major problems of any screening program is the occurrence of false-positive results. For neuroblastoma screening, little information is available on the psychological consequences for parents whose children had false-positive results that made further clinical evaluation necessary. It was the aim of this study to evaluate the parents' view by a semistructured interview.

Patients and methods: Among 267,302 infants screened in the Austrian study between 1991 and 1999, 19 had to be considered as repeatedly false-positive (no clinical evidence of neuroblastoma). Sixteen of 19 parent pairs could be reached by phone and were interviewed separately by use of a semistructured questionnaire to evaluate for psychological consequences resulting from the screening result.

Results: The psychological burden appeared to be small during the initial screening procedure, but it increased significantly through hospital admission and was then described as severe by 19 of the 32 parents.

Conclusions: Investigators should be aware of the psychological consequences of hospital admission for tumor screening in children. In ongoing neuroblastoma screening studies, laboratory methods as well as cutoff limits should be selected carefully.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Catecholamines / urine
  • Child
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / psychology*
  • Neuroblastoma / diagnosis*
  • Neuroblastoma / psychology
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Stress, Psychological*


  • Catecholamines