Doctors from Johns Hopkins and Georgetown Universities are saying women who receive a COVID vaccine should delay mammogram tests. Common adverse reactions from the vaccine, which can include swollen lymph nodes, can lead to false positives on mammogram tests, according to Dr. Lisa Mullen, Assistant Professor of Radiology at Johns Hopkins, and Dr. LaTasha Perkins, Physician and Professor at Georgetown.
Lymph nodes, which are a home for white blood cells in the body, can become enlarged when fighting off the infection-like symptoms from the COVID vaccine.
“You see it a lot and when you’re being vaccinated for a virus like the flu or COVID-19, you also can see it when you get vaccinated for HPV or a tetanus shot,” according to Perkins. She claimed swollen lymph nodes were not a cause for concern, though it’s been documented that some people have hyper-immune reactions that can have severe effects.
The admission that the COVID vaccines being administered in the U.S. can affect mammogram screenings is not insignificant. Breast cancer is the third-deadliest form of cancer, just behind lung and colo-rectal cancer. Estimated breast cancer deaths in 2019 were over 41,760 out of over 268,000 cases.
“When we started seeing patients who had had the COVID vaccine,” said Dr. Mullen, “We were noticing that they had larger than usual lymph nodes on the side where they had been vaccinated.”
Because tests were being affected by the vaccine, the Society of Breast Imaging has published guidelines for scheduling mammograms to try to avoid potential false positives.
For providers, they recommend, “If possible, and when it does not unduly delay care, consider scheduling screening exams prior to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination or 4-6 weeks following the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccination.”

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