False Positive Rate High
The false positive rate of mammograms—those patients without cancer but with a positive finding on testing—turned out to be another problem. Only one biopsy in six was found to be positive for cancer when done on the basis of a positive mammogram or breast examination.
The combined false positive rate was determined to be as high as 89 percent.
Identifying and performing biopsies on these clinically insignificant lesions represents over diagnosis and over treatment. Further, the physical and psychological stress associated with mammogram findings is not a small concern nor are the additional costs.
Too Many Mammograms Performed?
Recent data from the University of Washington and Harvard University reveals that over a period of a single decade, one out of every two women will have a false positive result as the result of mammography, and of those, nearly 20 percent will undergo an unnecessary breast biopsy.
Contrary to what many health-related agencies advise, recent findings seem to demonstrate that too many rather than too few mammograms are performed every year in the United States. Further, estimates show that for every $100 spent on the cost of mammograms, $33 goes to the unproductive and unnecessary expense of false positive results.