Don’t panic if you get swollen lymph nodes after a vaccine booster. But be aware if you’re due for a mammogram, doctors say

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Don’t panic, say doctors. Swollen lymph nodes caused by vaccination are temporary, harmless and a sign that the vaccine is working.

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But to avoid unnecessary worry and uncertainty, women planning to have a mammogram should be aware that swollen lymph nodes may show up on a mammogram right after a vaccine dose, as indicated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Top Vaccines official said this week.

“If you’re a woman, and you’re going to get a mammogram, and you get your booster shot, call and tell them you’re getting it (or) you’ve got it,” Dr Peter Marks, head of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said at a town hall organized by the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project.

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“If you’re going to get it, you might want to get your mammogram before getting it, or you might want to wait a few weeks because if those lymph nodes turn up on a mammogram, they can trigger false may, further investigation,” Marx said. “It’s actually a harmless thing, except if it triggers additional medical investigation, just to be aware of.”

To be clear: “The Covid vaccine does not cause breast cancer or increase your risk for breast cancer,” said Doctor. Lisa Ann Mullen, director of the Breast Imaging Fellowship at Johns Hopkins Medicine and assistant professor of radiology and radiological science. “But it can make the lymph nodes bigger, and that includes a (later) booster.”

Why does this happen?

After an arm is vaccinated, lymph nodes in the armpit area can sometimes swell because the immune system becomes activated and builds up an army of antibodies.
And those swollen lymph nodes can show up on a mammogram, said Dr. Connie Lehmanchief of breast imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School.
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“We’re not surprised at all. It’s a very effective vaccine,” Lehman told Granthshala on Thursday.

“It stimulates an immune response by the body that is necessary to fight the COVID-19 virus, should it enter a person’s body,” Lehmann said. “So these enlarged lymph nodes are evidence that the vaccine is doing exactly what our bodies need it to do.”

It’s not just the Covid-19 vaccine — the flu shot, the shingles vaccine and the diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis (D-Tap) shot can also temporarily change the appearance of lymph nodes, Mullen said.

She often notices enlarged lymph nodes from the flu vaccine on a mammogram in October.

“I wish we could move Breast Cancer Awareness Month from October to another month like May or June, because every year it’s also been flu vaccine season,” Mullen told Granthshala on Thursday. “I call back from screening some people I know who have had the flu vaccine, and their lymph nodes are a little bigger.”

“And you know it’s probably because of the flu vaccine, but I can’t be 100% sure. So often we’ll tell those women to come in,” said Mullen, possibly for an ultrasound to be further tested. said.

So when should women coordinate vaccines and mammograms?

Marks, an FDA vaccine official, said women eligible for an additional dose of the vaccine who have mammograms planned for the foreseeable future should check with their healthcare provider.

Mullen said not all doctors will agree, and not all patients will have the same circumstances.

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She said it’s important to get the vaccine dose on time. And if your regularly scheduled mammogram is several weeks away, any vaccine-induced swollen lymph nodes probably won’t be a problem, Mullen said.

If you’re due for a mammogram soon, Mullen suggests getting it. She said results are usually available within a few days, and women can be vaccinated later — reducing the chance of vaccine-induced swollen lymph nodes on a mammogram.

But if a woman has recently been vaccinated and has swollen lymph nodes, she can wait a few weeks before having a mammogram, Mullen said.

“If it’s possible to have a mammogram before the COVID vaccine series, or before the booster, that’s great. If that’s not possible, and you can wait several weeks (for the mammogram), that’s fine too,” she said.

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Mullen said there is one situation in which women should get screened for breast cancer right away — even if they just got one shot.

“If it’s a clinical condition—and that means someone has a symptom in their breast like a discharge from their nipple, they have breast pain, there’s something in the breast that’s different and different for them.” It’s new, or their doctor feels a lump… we want them to come off right away,” she said.

“I don’t care if he had the vaccine yesterday or not. Just come in, and whatever the problem is, we’ll work on it,” Mullen said.

‘Don’t even delay. get both’

Lehman said it’s important not to skip or delay mammograms — many women have already done so during the pandemic.

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She encourages women to get breast cancer screening as scheduled – even if they have recently been vaccinated.

Lehman said, “Don’t even delay. Get both.” She said there are ways to help figure out whether a swollen lymph node is simply a result of vaccination or something else related.

“There’s a very specific list we check through,” Lehmann said.

“We document every single patient where they had their COVID vaccine. So I saw a mammogram, and the woman had a vaccine in her right arm, and she has disproportionately enlarged lymph nodes in her right armpit,” I said in a statement. The patient and her doctor and I say, ‘This is a normal reaction to the vaccine. If you have any clinical concerns, if you can feel the swelling, it gets worse, if you have any concerns. So, see your doctor. You can always do more evaluations,” she said.

“Please don’t delay your mammogram,” she said, “and please don’t delay your vaccinations.”

Granthshala’s Virginia Langmead and Sandy LaMotte contributed to this report.

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