CLEVELAND – Some women who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 have noticed swollen lymph nodes under their arm, which is a common vaccine response, but can mimic a breast lump.
So, what should you do if you’re due for a mammogram screening around the time of vaccination?
“It’s really important for women to get the screening, but it’s also important for patients to get their vaccines,” said Laura Dean, MD, a breast cancer specialist with Cleveland Clinic. “I know vaccines are very hard to come by, and if somebody has the opportunity to be vaccinated they should absolutely take advantage of that. Coordinating the mammogram and the screening is something that their doctor can help them to coordinate.”
Dr. Dean said a small percentage of her patients have noticed enlarged lymph nodes after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, especially on the side where the shot was given.
She said it’s important for women to know there’s a possibility for mammogram pictures to pick up a swollen lymph node, which may result in additional ultrasound testing.
However, this is common and women shouldn’t be alarmed if they’re called back.
“If we do see lymph node enlargement on a screening mammogram, what The Society of Breast Imaging is recommending is that, essentially we bring the patients back, do a targeted ultrasound just to get a good idea of what those lymph nodes look like, and then we’re just monitoring them,” said Dr. Dean. “So, we’re recommending a follow up 4-12 weeks after the second dose of the vaccine.”
To try and prevent false positives on a mammogram, The Society of Breast Imaging recommends scheduling mammograms before the first dose of vaccine, or four-to-six weeks after the second dose, as long as it doesn’t delay routine screening needs.
In addition, Dr. Dean said it’s a good idea to let your medical team know if you’ve been vaccinated recently.