The COVID vaccines became widely available in early 2021, and soon after, radiologists started to notice something on mammograms. They showed enlarged lymph nodes, which is called “axillary lymph node enlargement”. It was soon learned that this was a direct result of the COVID vaccine, but don’t worry! This is a completely benign and normal reaction that your body’s immune system has in response to the vaccine.
At the time, physicians agreed that patients with a recent COVID vaccination or booster should delay having a mammogram for at least six weeks. The rationale was that delaying mammography would limit false positives when their mammograms are interpreted. This is because enlarged axillary lymph nodes are one of the abnormalities that radiologists look for in relation to breast cancer.
Eventually, radiologists gained more experience interpreting mammograms after vaccinations, and the recommendations were revised. There is now no need to delay a mammogram after a COVID jab. If the radiologist identifies enlarged lymph nodes after a COVID jab, and the mammogram is otherwise normal, the patient is usually referred for a follow-up breast ultrasound to confirm that the findings are benign. When this protocol is followed, there is never a delay in getting a mammogram.
Annual mammograms save lives, so if you’re above the age of 40, make sure you’re scheduled.
Original article written by Dr. Thomas Foster, Medical Director of TEPAS™ Breast Center