Women with abnormal mammograms who have negative results from follow up tests are still at somewhat higher risk of breast cancer in the next 10 years.
Women who have an abnormal mammogram should stay vigilant for cancer for for the next decade, even when follow-up tests fail to detect cancer, a study released Wednesday finds.
That’s because there’s a “modest” risk that cancer will develop during the next decade, says lead author Louise M. Henderson of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.
The absolute increase in risk amounts to about 1 additional cancer in every 100 women who have a false positive mammogram over a 10-year period, she says.
But when put another way, the numbers may appear alarming. The study divided women into two groups — those who got additional imaging and those who also got biopsies.
Women with an abnormal screening mammogram had a 39 percent higher risk of cancer if they got additional imaging that turned out to be negative, too. That’s compared with women who were truly negative and never developed breast cancer.
For women who got biopsies that turned out negative, the chance of cancer was increased by 76 percent over the next 10 years.
“We don’t want women to read this and feel worried,” Henderson says. Instead, the findings should be considered one more “useful tool” when weighing all the other factors that might be raising a particular woman’s risk, such as age, race, breast density and family history of breast cancer.
Henderson says the study wasn’t designed to figure out why a falsely positive mammogram is associated with an increased cancer risk.