Meta-analyses of the effect of false-positive mammograms on generic and specific psychosocial outcomes

Psychooncology. 2010 Oct;19(10):1026-34. doi: 10.1002/pon.1676.


Objectives: While a previous meta-analysis found that false-positive mammography results affect women's likelihood of returning for screening, effects on well being have yet to be meta-analyzed. We investigated whether the effects of false-positive mammograms on women's well-being are limited to outcomes specific to breast cancer.

Methods: We searched MEDLINE for studies of the psychosocial effects of false-positive results of routine screening mammography. We pooled effect sizes using random effects meta-analysis.

Results: Across 17 studies (n=20781), receiving a false-positive mammogram the result was associated with differences in all eight breast-cancer-specific outcomes that we examined. These included greater anxiety and distress about breast cancer as well as more frequent breast self-exams and higher perceived effectiveness of screening mammography. False positives were associated with only one of six generic outcomes (i.e. generalized anxiety), and this effect size was small.

Conclusions: False-positive mammograms influenced women's well-being, but the effects were limited to breast-cancer-specific outcomes. Researchers should include disease-specific measures in future studies of the consequences of false-positive mammograms.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Mammography / psychology*
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data
  • Mass Screening / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Time Factors