The Effect of False-positive Mammograms on Antidepressant and Anxiolytic Initiation

Joel E. Segel, Rajesh Balkrishnan, Richard A. Hirth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Despite reported increases in anxiety following a false-positive mammogram, there is little evidence the effect rises to the clinical level of initiating medication. Objective: To analyze the effect of a false-positive mammogram on antidepressant or anxiolytic initiation and identify subpopulations most at risk. Subjects: MarketScan commercial and Medicaid claims databases used to identify women ages 40-64 undergoing screening mammography with no prior antidepressant or anxiolytic claims. Research Design: Using a retrospective cohort design, we estimated the effects of a false-positive relative to a negative mammogram on the likelihood of initiating antidepressants or anxiolytics using multivariate logistic models estimated separately by insurance type. Results: At 3 months after a false-positive mammogram, the relative risk (RR) for antidepressant or anxiolytic initiation was 1.19 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.06-1.31] for the commercially insured and 1.13 (95% CI, 0.96-1.29) in the Medicaid population. In addition, 4 subgroups were at particularly elevated risk: commercially insured women ages 40-49 (RR=1.33; 95% CI, 1.13-1.54) or whose false-positive required multiple tests to resolve (RR=1.37; 95% CI, 1.17-1.57), included a biopsy (RR=1.68; 95% CI, 1.18-2.17), or whose resolution took >1 week (RR=1.21; 95% CI, 1.07-1.34). Conclusions: False-positive mammograms were associated with significant increases in antidepressant or anxiolytic imitation among the commercially insured. Follow-up resources may be particularly beneficial for cases taking longer to resolve and involving biopsies or multiple tests. The results highlight the need to resolve false-positives quickly and effectively and to monitor depressive symptoms following a positive result.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)752-758
Number of pages7
JournalMedical Care
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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