COVID-19 Vaccines & Mammograms: What to Know Before You Get Screened
You’ve probably heard all sorts of things about the COVID-19 vaccine, its booster shot, and mammograms. But what does it all mean for your breast health?
You might need to shuffle a few doctor appointments around, we’ll explain.
According to the Society of Breast Imaging, there have been reports of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines leading to swollen lymph nodes1 under the arm where the shot was administered. The swelling can indicate your body is doing its job by building an army of antibodies to fight off the virus.
However, you should know the swelling could impact your breast imaging results. That underarm area is also where enlarged lymph nodes can be a sign of breast cancer.2 So, when your doctor looks at your mammogram images, the results may appear abnormal, potentially triggering further false investigation and a call-back.
To be super clear: There’s NO connection between COVID-19, its vaccines (including the booster shot), and breast cancer.3 In fact, vaccines of all types can result in the temporary swelling of your lymph nodes—even the standard flu shot.3
The science is relatively simple. Most vaccines start an immune response by the body3 that’s necessary to fight off a virus should it enter your body, says Dr. Connie Lehman, Chief of Breast Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School.
This is in no way an excuse to skip either your annual breast screening or vaccine requirements because they’re both important. All it means is that you might have to coordinate a little. And there are a few options available to you. If your mammography appointment is right around the corner, you can get screened first and vaccinated right after. An alternative is to wait four to six weeks following your COVID-19 vaccine second dose or booster shot4 before having your breast exam. That’s how you can reduce the chances of vaccine-induced swollen lymph nodes showing up on your mammogram images and reduce the risk of false alarms.
No matter what you decide, speak with your doctor to decide what’s best for you and your body.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational use only and is not intended for or implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your health care professional for any question you may have regarding medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information found from public sources, such as public websites, customer feedback, company manuals and data from customers and trade shows, as of 01/03/2022. Hologic cannot verify the completeness of accuracy of this information.
1. SBI Recommendations for the Management of Axillary Adenopathy in Patients with Recent COVID-19 Vaccination. SBI-Online.org: https://www.sbi-online.org/Portals/0/Position%20Statements/2021/SBI-recommendations-for-managing-axillary-adenopathy-post-COVID-vaccination.pdf. Accessed November 8, 2021.
2. What women need to know about mammograms, COVID-19 vaccine. GoodMorningAmerica.com: https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/wellness/story/women-mammograms-covid-19-vaccine-75849345. Accessed November 8, 2021.
3. Don’t panic if you get swollen lymph nodes after a vaccine booster. But be aware if you’re due for a mammogram, doctors say. CNN.com: https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/08/health/covid-vaccine-swollen-lymph-nodes-wellness/index.html. Accessed November 8, 2021.
4. COVID-19 Vaccine: Can It Affect Your Mammogram Results? HopkinsMedecine.org: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/covid19-vaccine-can-it-affect-your-mammogram-results. Accessed November 9, 2021.
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