According to a recent article by the American Association for Cancer Research1, 16 percent of women will get called back for further testing after their first mammogram, and 10 percent will be called after subsequent mammograms. While the call-back percentage is high, only about 0.5 percent of those women will have cancer.
False positives can cause anxiety, but ultimately the news for a false positive is good – no breast cancer. Because the area looks suspicious, false positives require follow-up with more than one doctor, extra tests, and extra procedures, including a possible biopsy.
False positives are more common in:
- Younger women
- Women who have a family history of breast cancer
- Women who have dense breasts
- Women who are taking estrogen
A false positive mammogram doesn’t always mean you’ll get breast cancer later on, but a study by the American Association for Cancer Research2 does show a correlation between false positives and an increased chance for getting breast cancer within 10 years. There are a couple reasons for the correlation:
- Radiologists might notice something that’s not currently cancerous, but it could become cancerous in a few years.
- Women with dense breasts are at a higher risk for getting false positives, and they’re also at a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
It’s very important for women over the age of 40 to get mammograms to catch breast cancer in its early stages.