False-positive and False-negative Rates of Mammograms

False-negative rate – about 1/5 = 20%

  • A false-negative mammogram looks normal even though breast cancer is present. Overall, screening mammograms do not find about 1 in 5 breast cancers.

False-positive rate = about 50%

  • About half of the women getting annual mammograms over a 10-year period will have a false-positive finding.



Overall, the sensitivity of mammography is about 84 percent [9]. This means mammography correctly identifies about 84 percent of women who truly have breast cancer.

The chance of having a false positive result after 10 yearly mammograms is about 50-60 percent [22-24].


  1. Elmore JG, Barton MB, Moceri VM, et al. Ten-year risk of false positive screening mammograms and clinical breast examinations. N Engl J Med. 338: 1089-96, 1998.
  2. Hubbard RA, Kerlikowske K, Flowers CI, Yankaskas BC, Zhu W, Miglioretti DL. Cumulative probability of false-positive recall or biopsy recommendation after 10 years of screening mammography: a cohort study. Ann Intern Med. 155(8):481-92, 2011.
  3. Independent UK Panel on Breast Cancer Screening. The benefits and harms of breast cancer screening: an independent review. Lancet. 380(9855):1778-86, 2012.



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