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Health officials say COVID-19 vaccine could affect mammogram screenings

Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 5:34 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -As more and more people receive the COVID vaccine, we’re learning how it’s affecting our medical care, including mammogram screening results. According to doctors, a possible side effect from the Pfizer and Moderna shots may mimic a sign of possible cancer.

Once the COVID-19 vaccine began to be administered, doctors at Sanford Health noticed that at some women’s mammogram screenings they had swollen lymph nodes or glands in the armpit on the side of the injection.

Usually, if this is detected it’s a cause for concern.

“20 to 50 percent of the time it leads to a diagnosis of a cancer of some type, whether it’s breast cancer that has spread to the armpit, lymphoma or other cancers that have spread to the armpit,” said Dr. Joe Severs, Medical Director of Breast Radiology at Edith Sanford Breast Center in Sioux Falls.

However, if a woman just received the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s likely the swollen lymph nodes  are a harmless side effect. That can occur from a multitude of different vaccines like the flu vaccine.

“Actually it is a sign that the vaccine is working. That is our body’s normal immune response to make antibodies against the COVID-19 virus so that if and when you are exposed to it, the body will be prepared to fend that infection off,” said Dr. Severs.

The Society of Breast Imaging recently released information on this. They advise women to get their annual mammogram screening done before getting either dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Or wait four to six weeks after getting the second dose.

This will help prevent a false positive, which would result in more testing to make sure everything is alright.

“It’s very worrisome when patients find out they have an abnormality on their mammogram and we are doing our best to avoid that. Again, if a patient chooses to get the screening mammogram within that time period we’re not saying they can’t. They just need to be aware they may have this additional study,” said Dr. Severs.

This is only if there is no cause for concern. If you are feeling symptoms: “Most commonly like feeling a lump in the breast, persistent pain in one spot, bloody nipple discharge.” Then do not delay getting screened.

According to Dr. Severs, the majority of women will not experience this side effect. He says national numbers are showing only around 11 to 16 percent.

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