Concerns about COVID-19 vaccines and mammograms


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Doctors who are part of the breast imaging community are addressing concerns that have arisen over the impact of COVID-19 vaccines on mammogram results.

Dr. Avice O’Connell, a breast imaging expert with the University of Rochester Medical Center, discussed what the concerns are how they are being addressed Tuesday during News 8 at Noon.

“In recent months the breast imaging community has become aware of a side effect of the COVID vaccine in that lymph nodes on the side of the injection have become enlarged,” Dr. O’Connell explained. “Initially when we saw that it hadn’t been well known that this was going to be a reasonably common side effect so some folks did have additional imaging because back before COVID if one saw enlarged lymph nodes there was a concern of malignancy, of cancer, but once we understood that the vaccine was causing the lymph nodes to be enlarged we don’t have that concern anymore.”

Dr. O’Connell said the recommendation for people who are due – or overdue – for a mammogram is to not wait. “The thing is since the pandemic we’ve had a lot of people delay or completely ignore their mammograms. We really strongly want people to get their routine mammograms because we are looking for that other very important ‘C’ disease called cancer. What I want to tell everybody is to get your mammograms. If you have a very good relationship with your imaging team and you phone up to say I finally got my vaccine scheduled for next week, can you do my mammogram this week – if they say yes, well and good. My message is if they say we can’t reschedule you for months just go and get the mammogram, really do. Because we can deal with a slightly enlarged lymph node. We promise not to diagnose you with cancer unnecessarily. But it’s so important to get a mammogram. People have delayed way too long.”

Dr. O’Connell added, “If you could – in a perfect world – get your mammogram the week before you got your vaccine, yes, then there would be no problem. But this is not a perfect world and mammograms are sometimes hard to reschedule. Get the mammogram. Tell the staff that you’ve had the vaccine, which arm it was in and then we will take care of – you know most of the time there’s no reaction. Most of the time the mammogram is normal and the lymph node is normal. But maybe 10 percent, maybe not even, the lymph node is slightly enlarged and then we will call the person back, make sure that there’s no hidden cancer in the breast – most of the time there is not – and then we’ll say in six to eight weeks we’re going to re-check an ultrasound to re-look at your lymph node. And they return to normal in six to eight weeks.”

For more information from the Society of Breast Imaging regarding the COVID-19 vaccines and mammograms, visit this website.

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