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This systematic review aims to assess the psychological impact of mammographic screening on women with a family history of breast cancer. Women with a family history, and hence increased risk, of breast cancer are known to experience higher levels of anxiety about cancer. They are also often offered screening from an earlier age. The psychological consequences of screening are therefore of particular importance for this group of women. A comprehensive search of 4 electronic databases was conducted from 1982 to 2003, combining sets of terms relating to (1) breast screening or mammography (breast screen*; mammogra·), (2) psychological impact (adverse effects; anxi*; distress; nervous; psych*, psychological consequences; stress; worry) and (3) family history. Reference lists from relevant papers were examined for additional papers. The review identified seven papers from four countries. Overall, the findings indicate that, similar to women in the general population, most women with a family history do not appear to experience high levels of anxiety associated with mammographic screening. Although women who are recalled for further tests do experience increased anxiety the levels appear to be no greater than for women without a family history. We conclude that further research on this topic is required - this should include studies designed specifically to consider both the negative and positive impact of mammographic screening on women with a family history, using validated measures of anxiety and worry in combination with qualitative research. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





939 - 948