If you’re thinking about scheduling your next annual screening mammogram, you may have heard you should plan it around when you’ll be receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
That’s because some women may experience temporary, benign swelling of their lymph nodes after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, often in the armpit on the side of the body where the vaccine was administered.
Swelling of the lymph nodes, which are part of the body’s immune system, in response to the vaccine is normal and a good sign because it indicates the body is responding to the vaccine and building immunity. Lymph nodes contain white blood cells that filter foreign particles from the body and fight off infection and disease.
“It’s common for lymph nodes to activate after a vaccine or in response to an illness or infection,” says Tidelands Health radiologist Dr. Robert Whitehead, medical director of radiology for the health system. “It’s a sign your body is responding as it’s supposed to.”
When to schedule
However, if swollen lymph nodes appear on your mammogram, your care provider may ask you to come back in for additional precautionary testing and evaluation since swollen lymph nodes can also be a sign of breast cancer.
So, should you schedule your COVID-19 vaccine and mammogram around each other? Here’s what you should know:
- If you are overdue for your screening mammogram, keep your vaccination appointment and undergo your mammogram as soon as possible. If you receive the vaccine before your mammogram, inform your mammography provider.
- If you feel a lump, have unexplained breast pain, experience nipple discharge or have any concerns about your breast health, seek immediate care. Do not delay diagnostic mammograms ordered by a physician or another care provider for any reason.
- If you’re not overdue and need to schedule a routine annual screening exam, keep your vaccine appointment and try to schedule your exam before you receive the vaccine or four to six weeks afterward. If you can’t reschedule your mammogram within the next few months, keep your existing mammogram and vaccine appointments. On the day of your mammogram, inform your mammography technologist you’ve received the vaccine.
- If you’re already scheduled for your annual screening mammogram, keep your COVID-19 vaccine appointment and consider rescheduling your annual mammogram around the vaccine. Try to reschedule your mammogram before your COVID-19 vaccine appointment or at least four weeks afterward.
“Both your screening mammogram and the COVID-19 vaccine are very important to your health, so it’s important you benefit from both” Dr. Whitehead says. “You may just want to work your mammogram around your vaccine.
Book your vaccination appointment today
It’s easier than ever to receive your COVID-19 vaccine. If you’re in Phase 1a or 1b, call 1-833-6-MYSHOT (1-833-669-7468) to schedule. Or schedule online or by chat at tidelandshealth.org/vaccine.
“If it’s a diagnostic mammogram, get it regardless of the timing of the COVID-19 vaccine. Don’t put that off. If it’s a screening mammogram and you’re not overdue, consider scheduling your exam around the vaccine.”
If you feel a temporary lump or bump in your armpit after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s generally not a cause for concern, Dr. Whitehead says. However, if the condition persists for longer than 10 days or you’d like to be evaluated, be sure to follow up with your care provider.
MUSC, Internal Medicine
Memorial Medical Center, Diagnostic Radiology