COVID-19 vaccine side effect showing up in mammograms

Doctors want women to be aware that the COVID-19 vaccine may cause swollen lymph nodes that may show up during mammograms.
Updated: Feb. 12, 2021 at 7:44 PM CST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It can certainly be a frightening moment, but doctors are reassuring patients that swollen lymph nodes found under the arm during mammograms are, in most cases, nothing more than your body building the antibodies to fight the virus.

Doctors at University Hospitals have found this in patients who have recently had the COVID-19 vaccine, but in most cases, according to Dr. Holly Marshall, of University Hospitals, there is nothing to worry about.

“With COVID it seems to be a strong response which is good,” Dr. Marshall said. “It’s a normal response to the vaccine, and it means that your body is making antibodies.”

Doctors are seeing swollen lymph nodes in women who have taken either the Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine, and Dr. Marshall expects that the lymph nodes should decrease in size over a couple of weeks, or at most, a few months.

“After a couple of months if the lymph nodes have not decreased in size we would want to take a look and do an ultrasound and make sure something else isn’t going on,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 11 percent of first dose vaccine recipients and about 16 percent of second dose vaccine recipients experience noticeable swollen lymph nodes.

The lymph nodes appear about two to four days after vaccination.

Dr. Marshall is reminding women to schedule their mammogram — one many may have missed over the last year.

“We don’t recommend putting off your mammogram,” Dr. Marshall said. “I know in 2020 we had a couple of months [were] we stopped doing screening, and it’s very important to not have any further delay.”

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