Psychological and behavioral implications of abnormal mammograms

Ann Intern Med. 1991 Apr 15;114(8):657-61. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-114-8-657.


Objective: To evaluate women's psychological responses to abnormal mammograms and the effect on mammography adherence. To identify psychological responses and other factors that predict mammography adherence in women with normal or abnormal mammograms.

Design: Survey study with prospective analysis of factors associated with mammography adherence.

Setting: Health Maintenance Organization of Pennsylvania and New Jersey (HMO PA/NJ).

Patients: Study patients, members of HMO PA/NJ who were 50 years of age or older, and who had had mammography done 3 months earlier, included women with normal mammograms (n = 121), women with low-suspicion mammograms (n = 119), and women with high-suspicion mammograms (n = 68), but not women with breast cancer.

Measurements: Psychological responses 3 months after mammography and adherence to subsequent annual mammography were assessed.

Main results: Women with high-suspicion mammograms had substantial mammography-related anxiety (47%) and worries about breast cancer (41%). Such worries affected the moods (26%) and daily functioning (17%) of these women, despite diagnostic evaluation excluding malignancy. For each variable, a consistent trend (P greater than 0.05) was seen with degree of mammogram abnormality. Sixty-eight percent of women with normal results, 78% of women with low-suspicion results, and 74% of women with high-suspicion results obtained their subsequent annual mammograms (P greater than 0.05). The number of previous mammograms (odds ratio, 3.2; 95% CI, 1.6 to 6.2) and the effect of the previous results on concerns about breast cancer (odds ratio, 0.5; CI, 0.2 to 1.0) were independent predictors of adherence in logistic regression analyses (P less than 0.05).

Conclusions: A substantial proportion of women with suspicious mammograms have psychological difficulties, even after learning that they do not have cancer. Such sequelae do not appear to interfere with subsequent adherence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Mammography / psychology*
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Statistics as Topic