Predictors of breast cancer-related distress following mammography screening in younger women on a family history breast screening programme

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This longitudinal study investigated pre-screening factors that predicted breast cancer-specific distress among 1286 women who were undergoing annual mammography screening as part of a UK programme for younger women (i.e., under 50) with a family history of breast cancer.


Women completed questionnaires one month prior to screening, and one and six months after receiving screening results. Factors measured were breast cancer worry, perceived risk, cognitive appraisals, coping, dispositional optimism, and background variables relating to screening history and family history.


Pre-screening cancer worry was the most important predictor of subsequent worry, explaining 56/61% and 54/57% of the variance at one and six months follow-up, respectively. Other salient pre-screening predictors included high perceived risk of breast cancer, appraisals of high relevance and threat associated with the family history, and low perceived ability to cope emotionally. Women who had previously been part of the screening programme and those with a relative who had recently died from breast cancer were also vulnerable to longer-term distress. A false positive screening result, pessimistic personality, and coping efforts relating to religion and substance use predicted outcomes of screening at one month follow-up, but were not predictive in the longer-term.


Early intervention to ameliorate high levels of cancer-related distress and negative appraisals would benefit some women as they progress through the familial breast screening programme.

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