Mammograms May Yield False-Positive Results for Obese Women

Susan Farley
Published Online: Thursday, July 1, 2004

A new study analyzing data on more than 100,000 mammograms on close to 68,000 women showed that obese women are more likely to have their mammograms read as abnormal. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, attributed the false-positive results to the thicker volume of breast tissue when compressed in the mammogram machine, as well as the extra images needed to cover the entire breast, and the increased difficulty technicians may have reading the scans. These false-positive results lead to high costs and high anxiety for women waiting to learn whether or not they have breast cancer.

The researchers insist that it is important for obese women not to be discouraged by the high prevalence of false-positive results. These women should be aware that they may need to have additional imaging or other procedures performed to rule out the possibility of breast cancer. Researcher Joann G. Elmore, MD, MPH, of the University of Washington's School of Medicine stated that not only are obese women at a higher risk for breast cancer, but they tend to be diagnosed at a later stage of the disease than thinner women. Therefore, regular screening is essential to early detection and treatment.

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