The adequacy of measurement of short and long-term consequences of false-positive screening mammography

J Med Screen. 2004;11(1):39-44. doi: 10.1177/096914130301100109.


Objectives: The aim of this study is to review quantitative studies on women's experiences of consequences of false-positive screening mammography to assess the adequacy of the most frequently used instruments for measuring short-term and long-term psychological consequences.

Methods: Relevant papers reporting quantitative studies on consequences of false-positive screening mammography were identified using MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE and PsycInfo databases. Articles citing development and psychometric properties of the most frequently used measures were also retrieved. Finally, the review focused on studies that had used at least one of the most frequently used measures.

Results: Twenty-three relevant studies were identified. The most commonly used measures were the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), the Psychological Consequences Questionnaire (PCQ) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). One or more of these was used in 17 of the 23 studies.

Conclusions: The GHQ, the HADS and the STAI have problems with language, content relevance, and content coverage in studies of false-positive screening mammography. These instruments should not be used to measure psychological consequences of any kind of cancer screening. The PCQ is an adequate questionnaire for measuring short-term consequences, and the PCQ is preferable to other measures because of its higher sensitivity. However, there is little evidence that the PCQ is able to adequately detect all long-term consequences of screening mammography. Given the inadequacy of the measurement instruments used, any current conclusions about the long-term consequences of false-positive results of screening mammography must remain tentative.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography / psychology
  • Mammography / standards*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires