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Can the COVID Vaccine Affect My Mammogram?

Can the COVID Vaccine Affect My Mammogram?

Vaccines trigger an immune response so that your body will fight off a real infection in the future. With that it’s possible to have some side effects like a sore arm, chills or fatigue. One side effect you may not have heard much about is swollen lymph nodes under the armpit.

Lymph nodes contain immune cells that help fight invaders, so those tender, swollen lumps under the armpit make sense on the side you had the vaccine. They’re doing their job, building antibodies. But, this can present a challenge for mammograms because swollen lymph nodes can be a sign of something serious like cancer. If you’re due for a mammogram soon, what’s the best game plan?

If you haven’t scheduled your annual mammogram yet and plan to get the vaccine, try to schedule your mammogram first.

But if you’ve already had the vaccine and have an upcoming mammogram, you don’t necessarily need to reschedule. Many radiology centers have adjusted their normal process to address this head-on. For example, they will ask if you’ve had the vaccine and when on the pre-screening form. If you have experienced any swelling or tenderness under your armpit, be sure to let the clinician know when you get there.

You’ll also receive some additional education about the possible connection between the vaccine and an abnormal mammogram. The goal is not to create panic, rather to avoid it. If the radiologist does see swollen lymph nodes on your mammogram, you’ll get a call back to discuss and schedule an ultrasound to take a closer look, just to be sure there’s nothing more serious at play. Be sure to share any other symptoms you may have noticed pre-vaccine, any previous breast cancer, or family history. They’ll also recommend a follow-up ultrasound in three months to ensure the swelling has gone away.

There have been some reports advising women to wait at least four to six weeks after the second dose of the vaccine before scheduling a mammogram. This is a personal decision. Many people put off routine care during the height of COVID, so getting a mammogram on the books – even if it’s a bit later than you originally planned – is what’s most important.

If you’re due for a mammogram, click here to get scheduled at one of BRG’s four imaging locations.

Adam W. Harris, MD
Baton Rouge Radiology Group
(225) 769-6700