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COVID-19 vaccine shot can affect mammograms, here's why

Many women don't realize it when they get their annual mammograms, but the COVID shot can affect what doctors see in those exams. A Scranton doctor explains why.

SCRANTON, Pa. — A breast care provider at Delta Medix in Scranton says a lot of women have been coming in for their yearly mammograms and leaving without one because they've recently gotten the COVID-19 vaccine or booster.

"'I just got my shot and what do you mean I can't have my mammogram?' Well, you can. But you're having to then make arrangements if the lymph nodes are swollen," said Dr. Kristen Kelley from Delta Medix.

It was something Dr. Kelley noticed right away when people starting getting vaccinated.

How does the COVID-19 vaccine shot affect mammogram results?

When the vaccine produces an immune response in your body, it causes your lymph nodes to swell.

That's natural, and it's a good thing. It means the shot is working. 

However, "then when you get a mammogram, some of the lymph nodes from your underarm show up in the mammogram when you're pulled into the machine and they look enlarged," explained Dr. Kelley. "Then the radiologist can't say whether or not they're enlarged because you're just having a normal reaction, which is to be expected, we hope for that actually, or whether you're having a problem with a tumor."

Are there negative health effects?

While there are no negative health effects if you get your mammogram and your shot too close together if something looks wrong, you'll have to go back for more testing to see what's really causing it.

"It needs to be checked on," added Dr. Kelley. "Because there will be people who actually have tumor, not many, who will be missed because they'll think, 'oh it's nothing, but you didn't follow it along and now it turns out to be a tumor."

How long should you wait after getting a COVID-19 vaccine shot before your mammogram?

Dr. Kelley recommends if you're due for a mammogram, get that first before your booster. 

If you've already had your booster, wait at least four to six weeks before going in for your mammogram.

Click here for more information about the Breast Care Center at Delta Medix.

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