Wednesday, April 17

Here’s why timing of COVID-19 vaccine, breast mammogram matters

If you are planning to get a COVID-19 vaccine soon, and you’re also planning on scheduling a mammogram, doctors have some important information regarding the timing of it all.SPECIAL COVERAGE: CoronavirusMary Watkins feels strongly about getting her yearly mammogram on time. She is equally passionate about getting the COVID-19 vaccine as well.”You need to do both,” she said. “You need to get your vaccine, and you need to continue with your regularly scheduled medical treatments.”Watkins recently found out that the timing of the vaccination can impact mammogram readings. She plans to spread the word to family and friends.”If you tell your technician, then they can be on the lookout for whatever swelling there might be in the lymph node, and that can be extremely valuable in the proper read,” she said. “It’s not up to you to make that determination.”Dr. Courtney Hoey, a breast radiologist at Good Samaritan Medical Center, said doctors always look for secondary signs of breast cancer during annual mammograms.”We don’t just look at abnormalities within your breast tissue, we look at things like the skin and lymph nodes in the underarm area,” she said.Hoey said a COVID-19 vaccine can cause some swelling in those lymph nodes. She has seen it in her patients.”When you get the COVID vaccine, about 10 to 15 percent of the people, depending upon which form of the vaccine you get, it’s a little bit less with the Pfizer,” she said. “It is about to 10 to 15 percent with the Moderna, about 10 to 15 percent of the people will have a temporary swelling of the lymph nodes under the arm they received the vaccine in.”Hoey said the swelling is actually a good thing. It shows an immune response to the vaccine. She explained it tends to be under the arm the COVID vaccine went in.”The problem with that for your mammographer is that you will have new swollen lymph nodes on one side,” she said. “The ringer kind of comes in if you got your shot in one arm the first time, the other arm the second time, and then you get the mammogram within a week of the second shot, both sides could be swollen.”Hoey advises patients to talk with their doctors to weigh everything involved.”We are not really encouraging delaying the vaccine because that’s obviously the harder of the two things to get at this point,” she said.Timing is key, according to experts, as long as there are no breast issues, like new symptoms, pain, lumps or nipple discharge.”If it is just your routine annual screening, you aren’t having any issues, you haven’t delayed your mammogram for more than a year,” she said. “It’s just your regular annual [exam], on the same calendar as your last one was, we are saying you can push your mammogram back by four to six weeks.”She explained it further.”You can either get it after your first dose, so four weeks after your first dose, before your second dose, or you can wait,” she said. “If you are in between doses, you can wait four to six weeks after your second dose, and that will just decrease the likelihood you will be brought back to get extra pictures.”Hoey said if you have waited a longer period since your last mammogram, she recommends coming in for it sooner rather than later. She said they’ll deal with the vaccine swelling issues, as it would likely just mean a follow-up ultrasound a few weeks later.
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