Avera Medical Minute: Timing your mammogram after COVID vaccine can help prevent false alarms

Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 10:21 AM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Every six months, Sarah Siemonsma has a breast screening at Avera.

“So my mom had breast cancer at a really young age so I have been part of the high-risk breast clinic,” said Siemonsma.

Her mammogram looked different than the previous one.

“She said, ‘Did you have the COVID vaccine?’ and I said, Yeah, and I kind of was like why are you asking me that I didn’t even put it together,” said Siemonsma.

It had been 19 days since receiving her COVID vaccine.

“She said, ‘Well, you’ve got an enlarged lymph node under your armpit and normally that would be, make us really concerned but we actually just had an article last week that was put out nationally about that they’ve been starting to see this,’ said Siemonsma.

New medical research is showing 11 percent of women who receive a covid vaccine, have an immune response in their lymph nodes, enlarging them. Avera Breast Surgeon Doctor Michelle Bryan says those are the same lymph nodes that drain the breast.

“You know, really you shouldn’t see lymph nodes, but this in the absence of the vaccine would be really worrisome to us,” said Dr. Bryan.

Enlarged lymph nodes after a covid vaccination can be expected for up to six weeks.

“Your immune system is doing what it’s supposed to, to the vaccine and then going back down,” said Dr. Bryan.

“It correlated perfectly so my second shot was in the left arm and that’s where the lymph node was,” said Siemonsma.

Timing your mammogram after the covid vaccine can help.

“If they can wait four to six weeks after they’ve gotten the vaccine and really six weeks if you can, to decrease the chance of getting called back for something like this,” Dr. Bryan. “Call back is scary. And we’re just trying to avoid that for patients.”

If you need to choose between the vaccine or the mammogram, Doctor Bryan has this advice.

“Get your vaccine, most issues can wait six weeks on a mammogram. The only time we are telling people that they need to actively come in for their imaging is if we’re actively working something up,” said Dr. Bryan.

Sarah returned for tests six weeks later.

“Everything’s good so I’m in the clear and we don’t we can just follow back in that six-month regimen,” said Siemonsma.

But don’t put your mammogram off for too long.

“Really what we want from those mammograms is to catch breast cancer early. I want it to be an easy conversation, ‘how are we going to take care of this and get you back on with life’ versus the more difficult. And really the best tool we have for that is a mammogram,” said Dr. Bryan.

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