BANGOR, Maine — Recently, doctors have found that a side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine could be mistaken for breast cancer and it has some women questioning whether they should go in for a mammogram, or wait.
Dr. Susan O’Connor, Medical Director with Northern Light Health’s Breast and Osteoporosis Center, said when some people get the vaccine, one of the possible side effects can be enlargement of the lymph nodes under the armpit on the side you get the vaccine on.
The issue is swollen lymph nodes under one arm can be seen on a mammogram and can be a rare sign of breast cancer.
Dr. O’Connor said that the swelling caused by the vaccine is just the reactive lymph nodes doing their job, and it’s temporary.
“But when you get a mammogram, one of the views we do does show the armpit a little bit and it’s possible for those reactive lymph nodes to show up on the mammogram,” O’Connor said. “One of the really important things is when they do come in for your mammogram, they need to tell the technologist that they’ve had a COVID vaccine and which arm they had it in so that the radiologist knows that when they are reading the mammogram and can take that into account.”
O’Connor said screening mammograms remain the best tool to look at the general population and while no tool is perfect, mammograms are getting better and better as the technology improves.