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False Positive Mammograms Can Delay Future Screenings, Study Finds

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A new study has found women who receive false positive results from mammogram screenings are less likely to be re-tested within the next year, as experts recommend they do.

The study of more than 250,000 women by researchers at the Russell Institute for Research and Innovation at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge found 50% of women who get a false positive result from a mammogram are not likely to return for another screening for 25 months—13 months later than recommended.

However, women whose results were a true negative (negative mammogram and no breast cancer for 12 months) put off getting their next mammograms for 15 months.

False positive mammogram results initially indicate there's something suspicious, and further testing needs to be done, only to later find out there is no breast cancer found.

"The experience can add emotional, physical and economic burden on the women, which may deter them from coming back to their next screen," said Dr. Firas Dabbous, an epidemiologist at Lutheran General.

Dabbous said those women need to be educated about just how vital mammograms can be.

"This is the only tool that we have right now to detect breast tumors at an early stage; and, as we know, early detection leads to improved survivability, improved outcomes," he said.

The research looked at data involving 740,000 mammograms of more than 261,000 women.

The study was published Thursday in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

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