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Ask the Expert - Why Are Yearly Mammograms Important?

September 12, 2017


Each year, more than one million people are diagnosed with breast cancer. In the United States, breast cancer accounts for more than 230,000 cases each year and is responsible for more than 40,000 deaths. One in eight women will be diagnosed.


Those facts are brought to you by Anusha Reddy Madadi, MD, a physician at the UnityPoint Health – Allen Hospital Community Cancer Center. “Many risk factors for breast cancer, such as gender, age and genetics, can’t be controlled. That’s why regular mammograms are the most important part of an action plan for early detection,” says Dr. Madadi. 

The American Cancer Society advises yearly mammograms beginning at age 40, and self-checking can easily be done more often. Early detection is critical to determine how the cancer is treated and has a major impact on survival rate.


Mammograms can show changes in breast tissue up to two years before a patient or provider can physically feel them. Digital and 3D mammography systems used by UnityPoint Health are the most advanced methods of early detection available. “If something is found, many factors affect prognosis and treatment including size of the tumor, lymph node status and other details we can learn about the cancer cells themselves,” says Dr. Madadi. “This is important because everything is considered in combination rather than any one piece of information alone.”


Age and family history of the disease increase the risk of developing breast cancer. There are also certain lifestyle factors such as obesity and those who have undergone hormone replacement therapy that generate a higher risk. 

“There are also things women can actively do to reduce their risk,” Dr. Madadi explains. “Women who breastfeed, those who exercise regularly and maintain a healthy body weight have a reduction in risk.” Ultimately, there is no way to completely prevent breast cancer, but we do know how to treat it. Yearly mammograms have been proven to enhance early detection and significantly help UnityPoint Health doctors treat the disease.

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