A false positive screening mammogram is defined as a mammogram that results in calling back a patient for additional imaging. For every 1,000 women who have a screening mammogram, 100 are called back for additional images. Of those, 20 are recommended to have a biopsy and five are diagnosed with breast cancer. Reassuring a patient that the overwhelming majority of mammograms, and even biopsies, are normal can calm much of a woman’s anticipatory anxiety

Unfortunately, patients who have had a false positive screening mammogram are more likely to delay returning for their next screening. For women over the age of 50, delaying a mammogram or getting one every other year, would miss up to 30 percent of cancers. Additionally, one out of six breast cancers occur in women ages 40 to 49. Typically, cancers found in younger women grow faster and are more aggressive. Thus, missing an annual screening at any age can lead to a considerable increase in morbidity and mortality.

When calculating the individual risk of a patient for developing breast cancer, current models include the number of false positive biopsies a woman has had. Women who have had a false positive mammogram are actually at a greater risk for subsequently developing breast cancer. This is why it is extremely important that women don’t miss or delay an annual screening mammography, even if they have had the experience of having a false positive mammogram in the past.

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Fortunately, there have been more recent advancements in breast imaging, resulting in a decreased number of false positives. Digital breast tomosynthesis, or more commonly known as 3D mammography, has led to a 30-40 percent decrease in the call-back rate.

Furthermore, proper screening technique is essential. It is imperative that a woman get screened at an American college or radiology-accredited facility (ACR), which ensures the images acquired adhere to strict quality standards. Additionally, board-certified radiologists specializing in breast imaging have the most experience in interpreting these studies. This advanced level of expertise ensures the highest quality of interpretation. At Northern Westchester Hospital and Yorktown Imaging at Northern Westchester Hospital, the breast imaging radiologists have over 20 years each of such experience. We also have the latest, most up-to-date, specialized equipment, including the 3D mammography unit.

Schedule your mammogram today by calling 914-245-5200.

Stefanie Zalasin, MD, is a breast imaging specialist and site director of Yorktown Imaging at Northern Westchester Hospital.