What Breast Cancer Patients Need To Know About COVID-19 Vaccinations And Mammogram Scheduling
For Women With Breast Cancer
In a recent publication from Weill Cornell Medical Center/New York Presbyterian, radiologists documented 4 cases in which swollen lymph nodes were identified by palpation and/or ultrasound in patients receiving either the Pzifer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID 19 vaccine. Lymph node reactions and swelling are not rare after vaccine injections but with the world’s attention turned to COVID 19 vaccines, any reactions were bound to receive closer scrutiny. These swollen glands may mimic those seen in breast cancer. Although there have been no cases of the initiation or worsening of lymphedema, the limited possibility exists.
We strongly recommended that all cancer patients get the vaccines available to them. But we recommend that patients get the vaccine in the arm opposite to the side where the cancer was treated. Those who have had cancer on both sides (bilateral) should have their vaccination in the buttock or thigh, if possible. For patients on chemotherapy, we recommend waiting until their immune system has recovered, typically 2-3 weeks.
For Women Scheduling Their Mammogram
After vaccination for COVID-19, it is possible to develop swollen underarm (axillary) lymph nodes on the injection side. Though uncommon, these can be mistaken for cancerous lymph nodes, which can be seen in breast cancer. Swollen glands developing after vaccination does not mean that there is anything wrong. On the contrary, it is just the vaccine “doing its thing.” To eliminate any confusion, the Society of Breast Imaging recommends that women consider scheduling their mammogram either before taking their first COVID-19 vaccine dose or 4-6 weeks after taking the second dose.