While mammograms are no doubt excellent indicators of cancer, and in many cases, are lifesaving, there are certain downsides. One of these is false positive results, in which abnormal cells are identified in the x-ray, but are not actually cancerous. All mammogram results showing abnormalities should be followed up with further diagnostic tests, at which point the false positive would be identified. Still, false positive results can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for women, and unnecessary financial burden to receive the follow up diagnostic procedures. Interestingly, the chance of receiving a false positive diagnosis from a mammogram screening increases as the number of screenings you’ve received increases.
And, sometimes tests can miss telling signs of cancer. Australian singer Kylie Minogue had a scary experience with tests in which the first round of her screenings came up clear, despite her gut feeling that something wasn’t right. She went back in for a second round of tests, during which her cancer was discovered. Minogue’s story is a great example of how important it is to trust your gut, be persistent, and advocate for yourself when you feel that something isn’t quite right with your health. This holds true even when in remission from cancer, or dealing with any other health issues, not only cancer.
Despite the inconveniences of false positives, they should not put you off from undergoing mammogram screenings. When it comes to cancer, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. While a false positive can be inconvenient for a short period of time, the diagnostic potential of mammograms can save your life.