National expenditure for false-positive mammograms and breast cancer overdiagnoses estimated at $4 billion a year

Health Aff (Millwood). 2015 Apr;34(4):576-83. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2014.1087.


Populationwide mammography screening has been associated with a substantial rise in false-positive mammography findings and breast cancer overdiagnosis. However, there is a lack of current data on the associated costs in the United States. We present costs due to false-positive mammograms and breast cancer overdiagnoses among women ages 40-59, based on expenditure data from a major US health care insurance plan for 702,154 women in the years 2011-13. The average expenditures for each false-positive mammogram, invasive breast cancer, and ductal carcinoma in situ in the twelve months following diagnosis were $852, $51,837 and $12,369, respectively. This translates to a national cost of $4 billion each year. The costs associated with false-positive mammograms and breast cancer overdiagnoses appear to be much higher than previously documented. Screening has the potential to save lives. However, the economic impact of false-positive mammography results and breast cancer overdiagnoses must be considered in the debate about the appropriate populations for screening.

Keywords: Cost of Health Care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / economics
  • False Positive Reactions*
  • Female
  • Health Expenditures*
  • Humans
  • Mammography / economics*
  • Mass Screening / economics
  • Medical Overuse / economics*
  • Medical Overuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States