The Surprising Way The COVID-19 Vaccine Could Affect Your Mammogram Results

If you haven't gotten vaccinated against COVID-19 yet, you shouldn't have too much longer to wait. The White House announced a few weeks ago that the intent is to have enough vaccine for every adult in the U.S. by May 1. Whether you're doing it for your own health, or for the good of humanity, or even for the free donuts (thanks, Krispy Kreme!), you are getting vaccinated, aren't you?

Should you be of the female persuasion, however, there is one thing you ought to know before you get your vaccination. As Clayton Taylor, MD, a breast radiologist with Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, tells The List, "We've noticed that COVID-19 vaccinations can occasionally affect screening mammograms." So wait, does this mean you should hold off on getting vaccinated? Or on having a mammogram?

No, neither one of these. Both of these are necessary for your continued health and well-being. As Taylor says, "We do not want our patients to put off important screening like mammograms unnecessarily. We also do not want them to delay getting their COVID-19 vaccines when they are eligible." It's just that there are a few things he thinks you should be aware of before scheduling one or both of these procedures.

The COVID-19 vaccine might lead to misleading mammograms

Dr. Taylor tells The List that sometimes the vaccine leads to temporary swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpit. It's nothing to worry about — he calls it "a very normal response ... [that] means your immune system is responding to the vaccine as it should." The problem, however, lies in the fact that these enlarged lymph nodes may show up on your mammogram, causing your doctor to order additional imaging if they're unaware that the swelling results from a recent vaccine.

The Society for Breast Imaging (SBI) also acknowledges this problem, recommending you schedule your annual (or semiannual) mammogram either before you receive your first dose of vaccine or four weeks after the last dose. By this time, the lymph nodes should no longer be swollen so your mammogram results shouldn't be affected. If, however, you've already scheduled your mammogram for a time that falls within this four-week window, there's no need to cancel. Taylor says he believes that "mammograms can be safely and accurately interpreted in those who have received COVID-19 vaccines recently, as long as their vaccine history is shared with their doctors in advance."

The SBI adds that you should share with the mammography technician the date you received your vaccine (either/both doses, depending on how many you've received) as well as which arm took the needle. With this information, they should be able to account for any lymph node swelling without necessarily having to order additional imaging.