Some women who receive the COVID-19 vaccine develop swollen lymph nodes under the arm they received their vaccine injection. This is the normal immune reaction to a vaccine. These swollen lymph nodes usually return to normal on their own in a few days or weeks.
Q: Why do swollen lymph nodes matter?
Breast radiologists look closely for any changes on your mammogram. Swollen lymph nodes under one arm can be seen on a mammogram and can be a rare sign of breast cancer.
Q: What happens if there are swollen lymph nodes on my mammogram?
Depending on your medical history and when you received your vaccine, the breast radiologist may recommend that you return to the breast center for an ultrasound of your underarm area. They also may recommend a follow-up exam to see if the lymph nodes have returned to normal size.
Q: When should I schedule my screening mammogram?
Try to schedule your screening mammogram before your first COVID-19 vaccine dose or at least 4 weeks after your second vaccine dose. This reduces the chance that swollen lymph nodes from the vaccine will appear on your mammogram.
Q: What if my mammogram is already scheduled?
Keep your vaccination appointment. Getting vaccinated is critical to stop the spread of COVID-19. Consider rescheduling your mammogram to before your first vaccine appointment. However, if you are already overdue for your mammogram test or cannot reschedule within the next few months, keep your mammogram appointment and keep your COVID-19 vaccination appointments. Regular screening mammograms ensure that breast cancer can be detected as early as possible. Both are very important to ensure that you stay healthy. It’s especially important to keep your mammogram appointment if you are significantly overdue for screening. Remember: annual mammogram screenings save lives.
Q: What should I tell the technologist on the day of my mammogram?
Notify your mammography technologist if you have received a COVID-19 vaccine. Tell her when you received the vaccine, and which arm the vaccine was given. State whether it’s your first or second dose. This information will help the breast radiologist interpreting your screening mammogram.
Q: What if I have other breast problems?
If you have any changes in your breast or underarm, such as pain or a lump, contact your medical provider. The guidelines above are only for women with no breast symptoms who are scheduled for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Schedule your yearly mammogram today here or call 515-222-7474.
Trish Steenhoek, RT (R) (M), CN-BI
MercyOne Breast Imaging Navigator
Trish has been a Breast Imaging Navigator for 7 years with MercyOne Katzmann Breast Care. When patients are called back for additional images or testing after an abnormal mammogram, Trish steps in to help the patient navigate through the process. She provides initial support by coordinating imaging, biopsies, or other procedures, and helps connect patients with additional resources as needed.
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This article is part of a series of sponsored articles by MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center