coronavirus vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects Can Mimic Breast Cancer in Mammograms: Doctors

New guidance calls for a 4 to 6-week delay in routine mammograms to avoid false positives

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As more and more people get the COVID-19 vaccine, doctors are finding a new side effect that could result in a false positive in female mammograms.

NBC Boston interviewed Devon Quash, M.D. whose routine mammogram showed swollen lymph nodes, which can be an indicator of breast cancer.

She had received her COVID-19 vaccine nine days prior to her screening.

Quasha said the image showed "really big lymph nodes under my left arm and collarbone."

"They (doctors) noted that I had really big lymph nodes under my left arm and collarbone."

Devon Quash, M.D.

Nikunj Patel, M.D. Director of Oncologic Imaging at Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center in San Diego said this is no reason for alarm because the swelling of the lymph nodes can be a side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"What it indicates is that this is something the vaccine is doing, something it's supposed to do that it's mounting an immune response naturally," Patel explained.

The Society of Breast Imaging recently released a directive that provided guidance for routine mammograms for women who get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Consider scheduling screening exams prior to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination or 4 to 6 weeks following the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccination."

Society of Breast Imaging

The directive said women should consider scheduling their routine mammogram either before their COVID-19 vaccine or wait 4 to 6 weeks after their second dose of the vaccine to get their mammogram.

However, doctors said this applies only to "routine mammograms" and if a woman feels an abnormality like a lump, discharge, or other issues, they should seek diagnostic care from their health care provider right away.

Lucy Nicholson | Reuters
A nurse draws a Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, at East Valley Community Health Center in La Puente, California, March 5, 2021.

Patel told NBC 7 this COVID-19 vaccine side effect should not scare women away from getting the vaccine.

"What I don't want women to get concerned about is that having the vaccination is going to cause these lymph nodes to enlarge and get cancer," Patel added.

As the number of vaccines administered begins to surge across the country, Patel said doctors want to get the word out to inform women about these new side effects.

And he said if you have any questions or concerns, patients should turn to their doctors to get answers.

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