Concerns have been raised regarding the possible negative psychological impact of the cancer screening programmes offered in the UK. This review aims to assess the extent of and factors associated with the adverse psychological consequences of mammographic screening. Fifty-four papers from 13 countries were identified, a majority of which were published after 1990, coinciding more or less with the onset of routine mammographic screening. The results report that mammographic screening does not appear to create anxiety in women who are given a clear result after a mammogram and are subsequently placed on routine recall. However, women who have further investigations following their routine mammogram experience significant anxiety in the short term, and possibly in the long term. The nature and extent of the further investigation that women are exposed to during mammographic screening determines the intensity of the psychological impact. Factors associated with the adverse psychological impact of mammographic screening included: social demographic factors of younger age, lower education, living in urban areas, manual occupation, and one or no children; cancer screening factors of dissatisfaction with information and communication during screening process, waiting time between recall letter and recall appointment, pain experienced during the mammographic screening procedures, and previous false positive result; and cancer worry factors including fear of cancer and greater perceived risk of breast cancer. Difficulties in measuring the psychological impact of screening are discussed, and methods of alleviating the negative psychological outcomes are suggested.
Copyright 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd