False-positive mammograms discourage women from having follow-up screening, a study in today's Medical Journal of Australia says.
BreastScreen WA medical director Elizabeth Wylie, the study's co-author, said it found 67.6 per cent of Australian women went back for more screening within 27 months of a false-positive - when a mammogram indicates breast cancer but none is found in follow-up tests.
This compared with 70.7 per cent of WA women who returned after a negative screening.
Dr Wylie said the number of false positives seemed small - about 44 in 1000 - but the combined effect might be significant given 32.4 per cent of women who are screened from age 50 were likely to have at least one positive recall.
She said BreastScreen WA, which screens about 55 per cent of WA women aged 50 to 69 every two years, had noted a drop in the number being screened in recent years.
It was important to keep false positives to a minimum so women would not be deterred from checks.
The recall rate could probably be improved through regular feedback to radiologists who read the mammograms and by making previous mammograms available to them.