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We know that women's psychological wellbeing is negatively affected when they receive a false positive mammography test result, but reports of long term consequences have until now been scattered through the literature. A systematic review of observational studies looked into how such false positive results influence women's behaviour, wellbeing, and beliefs in the long term.
The review, which was restricted to studies published in English, found 23 longitudinal studies that included more than 300000 women aged at least 40. Compared with women who had a normal result, women with a false positive result had higher, although not pathologically raised, levels of distress and anxiety several months after receiving the results. They also thought more about breast cancer and examined their breasts more often.
In the United States, women who once received a false positive result were more likely to return for routine screening, while the opposite was true for Canada. Among European women, false positive results did not affect the likelihood of returning for the next routine mammography.