Patients who have received their COVID-19 vaccine may find enlarged lymph nodes in their armpits. But they shouldn’t be too alarmed. Swollen or enlarged lymph nodes, like other routine vaccine side effects, indicate that patients’ immune systems—and the vaccine—are doing their jobs. “This is a good response. Your lymph nodes are a part of your immune system, and they’re helping build that immunity to COVID-19,” says Dr. Meghan Musser, DO.
This side effect, though, has women concerned. Dr. Musser, a breast radiologist, says swollen lymph nodes can show on a mammogram, which may lead to additional testing. But postponing your mammogram is not necessary.
“I really encourage women to come in for their screening mammogram as it is ordered.”
Imaging enlarged lymph nodes
Keeping your mammogram appointment is important: swollen lymph nodes may be a sign of cancer. And as it becomes a more known side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine, technologists can help patients move forward with less anxiety and greater confidence. Technologists learn the vaccine history of every patient who is screened, using that information to help interpret a mammogram.
“If we do see lymph nodes that look a little more prominent on the side they received their vaccine, we can put that history together and potentially do a short-term follow-up to make sure the lymph nodes have resolved,” Dr. Musser says.
They will likely recommend an ultrasound follow-up, which doesn’t have any radiation and provides a clear picture of the lymph nodes.
If you receive a callback
Don’t be concerned if you receive a callback for further testing after your screening mammogram. Callbacks are common, and radiologists typically want a clearer picture of an area.
“It is normal to feel nervous, but the vast majority of patients who get called back for additional workup have benign results,” Dr. Musser says. “If they get called back, it may have nothing to do with the vaccine. It may be something in the breast we want to look closer at.”
Schedule your screening today
Keep your scheduled mammogram if you’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine. Screenings mammograms can save lives.
Schedule your mammogram with Kettering Health Network today.