The COVID-19 Vaccine and Your Mammogram: You Need Both. Here’s How to Schedule!
It didn’t take long after women started getting their COVID-19 vaccinations for doctors to recognize a particular side effect: swollen lymph nodes. This discovery was made when doctors began seeing a sharp increase in this symptom seen on mammogram images. So far, it has been linked to the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. With new vaccines coming out, we may continue to see a similar response. Because the chance of swollen lymph nodes exists, imaging centers and doctors are discussing how women can get their vaccines as well as their mammograms. We’ll discuss that here.
More about the Lymph Nodes and Why a Vaccine May Cause Swelling
Lymph nodes are an integral part of the lymphatic and immune systems. We have many lymph nodes throughout the body. Under the arm alone, we have 20 to 40 lymph nodes. Other areas where these nodes exist include the chest, neck, abdomen, and groin. These small glands help fight off disease and infection using white blood cells. They also filter foreign particles and waste. When a foreign invader is detected by the body, the immune system triggers the production of white blood cells. The increase in white blood cells and filtering processes can cause the lymph nodes to swell.
Some people who have received their COVID-19 vaccine have noticed lymph node swelling on the side of the body where the injection was administered. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 16% of clinical trial participants aged 18 to 64 noticed swollen lymph nodes within a few days of their first or second vaccine dose. Just over 8% of adults over age 65 experienced this side effect.
Vaccine-Related Lymph Node Swelling is Temporary
While it may feel alarming to notice swollen lymph nodes, the vaccine-related issue seems to be benign and temporary. Knowing that this side effect can develop 2 to 4 days after a vaccine and last for 6 to 10 weeks, until the body’s immune response decreases, doctors are advising women to schedule their routine mammograms accordingly.
If you are scheduled for your vaccine appointment in the coming weeks, now is a great time to come in for a routine mammogram. You could have your breast screening an hour before your vaccine appointment without the risk of confusing results. If you cannot come in for your mammogram before you get your vaccine, it is appropriate to wait about 10 weeks after your second vaccination to do so.
Mammography Is Still A Must
There are instances in which a mammogram or other breast screening should not be delayed. Some women need both their vaccine and their mammogram sooner rather than later. In such instances, it is important to discuss the situation with a doctor and also with the mammogram provider. The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped cancer. Breast cancer still occurs and it is our mission to provide prompt, personal attention to achieve the earliest possible detection.