Mammography: Anxiety and Test Results

Mammography: Anxiety and Test Results

According to a recent study published in JAMA Online, patient anxiety when it comes to abnormal mammography results leading to additional work-up is both real and manageable.  


We recognize that anxiety and breast imaging go together – this is natural and expected. Anytime a mammography result is something other than negative or benign, anxiety will likely follow.  


As always here on our blog, we think education can help keep some of that anxiety in perspective. The large majority of screening mammograms will result in a negative or benign result – see you in a year. Only 1-2% of those women who require additional workup will go on to need a biopsy – many positive screening studies will require a few additional images, perhaps an ultrasound or at most short term follow-up. So, if your screening mammogram prompts further work-up – don’t panic!  


This study is one of the first to analyze the stress related to having an abnormal result on screening mammography. Anxiety related to mammography results was cited by the United States Preventive Services Task Force as a risk of mammography, and one of the reasons the group did not have a recommendation for screening in the 40-49 year old age group.  The best news from the current study is that although there was greater anxiety in the women who had an abnormality on screening mammography, the difference from women in the normal results group was only slight and did not persist at one year. This affirms something we already knew – women are resilient!  


The American College of Radiology and the Society for Breast Imaging have teamed up to issue their take on these new findings. (Read their statement here.) Our favorite line from it?   “Attention to women’s feelings associated with test results is, and should be, a concern for those who provide this care.”   Amen. We care about our patients and readers and want to help put you at ease. Nothing about mammography is easy, but these latest results confirm women can handle the stress related to abnormal results.




Image credit: Don’t Worry by Vincerama Copyright Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported 

Originally published 5/2/14 on