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Keywords:

  • mammography;
  • screening;
  • false positive;
  • anxiety;
  • health care utilization

OBJECTIVE: To measure how often a breast-related concern was documented in medical records after screening mammography according to the mammogram result (normal, or true-negative vs false-positive) and to measure changes in health care utilization in the year after the mammogram.

DESIGN: Cohort study.

SETTING: Large health maintenance organization in New England.

PATIENTS: Group of 496 women with false-positive screening mammograms and a comparison group of 496 women with normal screening mammograms, matched for location and year of mammogram.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: 1) Documentation in clinicians' notes of patient concern about the breast and 2) ambulatory health care utilization, both breast-related and non–breast-related, in the year after the mammogram. Fifty (10%) of 496 women with false-positive mammograms had documentation of breast-related concern during the 12 months after the mammogram, compared to 1 (0.2%) woman with a normal mammogram (P = .001). Documented concern increased with the intensity of recommended follow-up (P = .009). Subsequent ambulatory visits, not related to the screening mammogram, increased in the year after the mammogram among women with false-positive mammograms, both in terms of breast-related visits (incidence ratio, 3.07; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.69 to 5.93) and non-breast-related visits (incidence ratio, 1.14; 95% CI, 1.03 to 1.25).

CONCLUSIONS: Clinicians document concern about breast cancer in 10% of women who have false-positive mammograms, and subsequent use of health care services are increased among women with false-positive mammogram results.