How the COVID-19 vaccine could affect mammogram results

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Women can expect to be asked additional questions at their next mammogram appointment — have you been vaccinated for COVID-19? How recent was it? What arm was used for the injection?

A side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine is swollen lymph nodes. Dr. Michelle Lee, a diagnostic radiologist at Augusta University Health, says that “is actually a good sign.”

“That means that your body is mounting an immune response to the vaccine. It means the vaccination is working.”

However, swollen lymph nodes can be a “rare sign of breast cancer.” If a woman’s lymph nodes are swollen during her mammogram, a radiologist will ask the patient to return for further examinations and an ultrasound.

Dr. Lee says lymph nodes can swell within “one to two days” of a vaccination. They can stay swollen for weeks. She recommends scheduling a mammogram around a vaccination appointment to avoid receiving false test results.

“If you have a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, keep that appointment. Don’t change it. It’s vitally important that women of Augusta get that vaccination. What I recommend is changing your mammogram appointment. Bump up your mammogram to before your vaccine. If that’s not possible, you may want to wait four weeks after your second COVID-19 vaccination before you go for your mammogram.”

It is critical women ages 40 and older undergo mammograms yearly. Regular screenings can lead to early detection of breast cancer.

“We predict there will be about 5,000 more breast cancer deaths because of delays in screening during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s essential that all women over the age of 40 come in and get their annual mammogram.”

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