It’s being reported from mammographers all over the country that women are showing positive nodes on mammograms after they had the Covid-19 vaccine. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are causing lymph nodes to activate and increase in size. The swelling is benign and seems to resolve with time.
It started in January as biopsy numbers began to climb and the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) put out an advisory about unnecessary biopsies. They recommended asking the patients about Covid-19 status and record the date and which arm received the vaccine.
As radiologists began to compare notes about how many women were showing nodes on their mammograms, the word began to spread around the country like wildfire. Many were advocating no biopsy and a return for ultrasound imaging after 6 weeks for re-evaluation.
Swollen lymph nodes are usually a red flag and women who wish to be sure can go ahead and plan for one with their physician. Physicians can inform them that this is probably related to the C0vid-19 vaccine and they can wait to see if it resolves. However, for women who already have had a positive diagnosis, waiting may not be an option if return is feared.
The answer should be to schedule your recheck or annual mammogram before you go for the Covid-19 vaccination. SBI is recommending waiting 4 to 6 weeks after a Covid-19 vaccination to have a routine mammography screening. Some breast care facilities are recommending to the patients whose only concern is a swelling or tenderness after the vaccine in their armpit to wait 4 to 6 weeks and if persistent to come in for evaluation.
Radiologists are recommending that for patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to have the vaccine given in the arm opposite from the affected breast. If cancer diagnosis was in the right breast, get the vaccine in the left arm. If it was present in both breast, talk to your physician about which arm would be the best.
Cancer doesn’t stop for Covid. Patients should keep annual, routine mammography appointments. Mammography screening saves lives and there should be no barriers to obtain the procedure, but crowding the schedule already in arrears because of the pandemic should be avoided.