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Ask the St. Elizabeth Expert: What should we know about mammogram study?

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - A recent report on mammography raised concerns about "false positive" screening tests.

The study found that women who have to go back for more screening because of what's called a "false positive" on a mammogram were more likely to delay getting that test again. But experts at the Women's Wellness Center at Saint Elizabeth Healthcare said before women delay, there were a few important things to know about mammography.

The first thing people should know about mammography, according to Dr. Michael Guenther, is that when it comes to these diagnostic images, "The intent is to find something if it's there."

But what if what a doctor thinks is "there" turns out to be nothing? A new study from the American Association for Cancer Research found false positives lead to a delay in the next screening for many women. But when women hear "false positive" experts say it's important to go beyond the headlines. That's because, the first thing to know is that a "call back" is pretty common according to Becky Dixon.

Dixon, a nurse navigator, said, "I've been called back myself several times."

There are several explanations; the imaging techniques are better at detection, there's no comparison to know if something suspicious is normal for an individual, or even a woman's age. Women also should know, according to Dr. Guenther, that a call back for a second screening can help women avoid a true false positive. He said that happens a lot less often with the high tech screenings.

In the study most women delayed several months beyond whatever was recommended. Dr. Guenther says a few months he's not worried about, but longer delays, can often lead to more concerning results.

Since mammography guidelines are different for women depending on age and family history, it's best to ask your own doctor about how often you should have the test.

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