False-positive results on cancer screening tests are common and can lead to costly follow-up testing, according to a report in the December issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention.
“As new cancer screening tests are developed it is important to consider not only their potential clinical benefits, but also their potential for adverse effects,” lead author Dr. Jennifer Elston Lafata, from Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, said in a statement. “One such adverse effect is the medical care costs associated with false positive cancer screening test results.”The findings are based on a study of 1087 subjects who were enrolled in a large managed care organization and participated in the Prostate, Lung, and Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. The costs of false-positive lung cancer screens were determined through telephone interviews of 98 subjects.Forty-three percent of subjects had at least one false-positive screening result, the investigators report. Moreover, 83% of these subjects received follow-up care.As might be expected, subjects with false-positive results had significantly higher medical care expenditures than those without such results, the researchers note. For men and women, the average differences in cost were $1171 and $1024, respectively.Given the economic and psychological implications of false-positive screening results, it is imperative that cancer screening is offered in a setting that allows informed decision-making, the authors conclude. This is especially true for malignancies such as prostate, lung, and colon cancer, for which the effectiveness of screening remains to be determined.(Source: Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2004;13:2126-2132: Reuters Health: Oncolink: December 2004.)