The study, published in the journal Cancer
Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention (CEBP), indicates call-backs
for further testing – or false positives – cause some women to delay
or even skip their next screening.
The finding highlights an alarming reaction to false positive
mammography results. According to OSF HealthCare Breast Radiologist
Dr. Kelly Kennell, a request for follow-up testing shouldn’t
automatically trigger a fear response.
“Most often, it’s something that’s okay,” she said. “But it’s just
an area we need a closer look at to try to tell if everything is
The American Cancer Society, the
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and American
College of Radiology agree that women with an average risk of breast
cancer should schedule annual mammograms beginning at age 40.
“Since we don’t know one thing that causes breast cancer, the only
way we know how to find it is to screen for it. Breast cancer does
start as one cell and eventually it grows to something we are able
to see on a mammogram. We are trying to find cancer on a mammography
image before a patient is able to feel it, so it’s easier to treat,”
said Dr. Kennell.
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According to the CEBP study, women who are
recommended to have annual screenings and had a call back tended to
delay their next test for over a year. This is compared to a three-
to six-month delay for women whose tests had clear negative results.
This delay can directly affect a woman's chances of
survival if breast cancer is later diagnosed, since many cancers
can’t be detected at early stages without screening.
“There are lots of cancers that are unable to be felt, that are way
in the back of the breast, or that are so small that patients can’t
feel them,” said Dr. Kennell. “Breast cancer is a surgical disease
still, so we do not want to leave cancer cells behind in the body,
so we would want to take care of that if we found it.”
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer
death among women, exceeded only by lung cancer.
Statistics indicate one in eight women will develop breast cancer
sometime in her lifetime. Early detection is directly linked to
higher survival rates; if detected early, the five-year survival
rate is 98 percent.
[The OSF Online Newsroom
provided by Libby Allison
Media Relations Coordinator
OSF HealthCare System]