Better safe than sorry: a long-term perspective on experiences with a false-positive screening mammography in Denmark

Laura Glahder Lindberg, Mette Svendsen, Mikala Dømgaard, John Brodersen

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    Breast screening with mammography can be contentious because of its unintended harmful repercussions. A false-positive mammography is one of the most frequent harms and can encompass both short- and long-term psychosocial implications. Based on eight qualitative in-depth interviews with women who reported negative psychosocial consequences following a false-positive mammography, this article explores how women in the study experienced having a false-positive and how these experiences manifested themselves in a long-term perspective. This article draws on data from in-depth interviews with eight women in Denmark, in 2009, who had had false positive screening results approximately 5 years before the interview. Despite all participants having a self-perception of low risk of breast cancer, they regularly participated in screening. When receiving the recall letter and in the interim, the women perceived themselves as and identified with cancer patients and feared dying. When further investigation indicated that they did not have cancer, the women in the study treated this as an acquittal and expressed gratitude for the screening programme. However, their confrontation with an initial positive breast cancer diagnosis created concerns that the women still experienced and had to manage 4 to 5 years after the initial false-positive mammography. We argue that the psychosocial consequences of having the false-positive mammography contributed to the women's view of themselves as being subjects at constant risk. However, the women did not blame the medical technology for its inaccuracy and inflicted worries, and the false-positive mammography did not lead to them losing confidence in screening. The women in the study strove for means to control the latent anxiety that was introduced with the false-positive mammography, by continuously seeking medical confirmation of their well-being and desiring more frequent screening.

    Sider (fra-til)699-716
    Antal sider18
    TidsskriftHealth, Risk and Society
    Udgave nummer8
    StatusUdgivet - 12 nov. 2013


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