Should Mammogram Screenings Be Delayed After COVID Vaccination?
With the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines, doctors and scientists are still learning and documenting various side effects that patients experience after receiving their vaccinations. Many patients experience side effects typical of most vaccines, including muscle aches, headache, arm soreness and fever.
However, in a few cases, some patients have reported swelling of the lymph nodes in one armpit. This symptom typically appears two to four days after vaccination on the side that the patient received the vaccine and usually resolves after two weeks. The swelling of lymph nodes is not uncommon with vaccines and has been reported with the flu vaccine. It means your body is making the necessary antibodies to fight off an infection. However, some patients wonder if they should reschedule their mammogram screening to get it done before receiving their first dose of the COVID vaccine or delaying their screening by a few weeks after completing the second dose to ensure they don't have a false-positive reading.
The Society of Breast Imaging does not recommend or encourage patients to reschedule screenings, but does say patients should consider scheduling screening exams before the first dose or four to six weeks after the second dose, as long as that does not excessively delay their mammograms.
Currently, Ochsner encourages all patients to keep their scheduled mammogram screening. Scheduling a screening exam less than 12 months before the last one potentially puts the exam's cost on the patient. Additionally, delaying a screening mammogram four to six weeks after the second vaccine dose puts patients at risk of delaying a cancer diagnosis by about three months, which can significantly affect treatment.
Additionally, abnormal swelling of a lymph node in the armpit is not a prevalent side effect of the vaccine. Recent research shows that this only happens to 11% of patients after the first vaccine dose and 16% after the second dose. Therefore, it is not practical for all patients who have received the vaccine to reschedule their mammogram screening.
When patients go in for their screening mammogram, the technologist or radiologist will most likely ask if they have recently received the COVID-19 vaccine. If you are not asked, please tell the technologist performing your exam if you have recently had the COVID-19 vaccine.
We encourage all patients to be body aware, and patients should notify their doctor and undergo appropriate imaging if they feel a new or growing lump in their breast or armpit.
Are you due for a mammogram screening? Schedule an appointment today: ochsner.org/screenings