A roller coaster of emotions and sense – coping with the perceived psychosocial consequences of a false-positive screening mammography

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Abstract

Aims and objectives

To explore coping with the perceived psychosocial consequences of a false-positive screening mammography.

Background

Mammographic screening has been found effective to decrease breast cancer (BC) mortality, yet there are adverse effects. Psychosocial consequences of false-positive mammographic screening have mainly been investigated from a population-based perspective. A call for qualitative studies to further explore these consequences has thus been postulated. To date, qualitative studies have elucidated women's experiences following their recall breast examinations, but their coping with perceived psychosocial consequences of a false-positive screening mammography has not yet been explored.

Design

An explorative qualitative study.

Methods

Face-to-face interviews were held with a purposive heterogeneous sample of 13 Swedish-speaking women with a false-positive screening mammography. The transcripts were analysed by the use of an inductive content analysis.

Results

Coping with the perceived psychosocial consequences of a false-positive screening mammography implied a roller coaster of emotion and sense. Women described how they imagined the worst and were in a state of uncertainty feeling threatened by a fatal disease. Conversely, they felt protected, surrounded by their families and being professionally taken care of, which together with perceived sisterhood and self-empowerment evoked strength and hope. Being aware of family responsibility became a crucial matter. Experiencing false-positive screening raised thoughts of thankfulness and reappraisal of life, although an ounce of BC anxiety remained. Consequently, gained awareness about BC screening and values in life surfaced.

Conclusions

Experiencing a false-positive screening mammography triggers agonising experiences evoking a variety of coping strategies. Provision of screening raises the issue of responsibility for an impact on psychosocial well-being among healthy women.

Relevance to clinical practice

Gained knowledge might provide a basis for interventions to prevent psychosocial consequences of false-positive mammographic screening and provide support for women with a potentially compromised ability to overcome such consequences.

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