Should You Delay Screening Mammograms Due to the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Published: March 30, 2021

Don't Delay Your Routine Screening Mammogram!

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Many routine medical procedures still can—and should be—performed right before or right after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC and doctors everywhere.

We sat down with Dr. Moira O’Riordan of the Stamford Health Breast Center, who weighed in on why most women should schedule their routine mammogram before, or several weeks after, their COVID-19 vaccination(s).

Stamford Health:
First things first: we always emphasize the importance of not delaying care due to COVID-19. What is it about mammograms that make this rule an exception?

Dr. O'Riordan:
Yes, as a rule of thumb, you should not delay any preventative screenings! But new recommendations from the Society of Breast Imaging show that the COVID-19 vaccine can cause benign findings on screening mammograms.

Stamford Health:
Please explain what the COVID-19 vaccine shows on mammograms.

Dr. O'Riordan:

Like all vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine can cause enlarged lymph nodes in the underarm near where the shot was given. This enlargement is normal—it means your body is building immunity to COVID-19.

Enlarged lymph nodes are seen in about 10% of people after their second shot. We never want to miss any abnormality so even though we have a reason in a vaccinated person for the enlarged lymph node, we recommend that we closely follow the lymph in about 3 months to make sure it returns to normal and it is not a sign of another condition.

So, to avoid unnecessary anxiety from waiting for a follow-up ultrasound, you can schedule your mammogram before your vaccine or wait four to six weeks after your final shot.

At the Stamford Health Breast Center, this is the advice we give women who are not otherwise at high risk for breast cancer, or who are not getting a diagnostic mammogram.

Stamford Health:
So in other words, it is your choice to delay routine mammogram if you have no symptoms of breast disease or breast cancer, but if a mammogram is needed to rule out or confirm a diagnosis, that should most definitely not be delayed?

Dr. O'Riordan:

That is correct. Most definitely not! The earlier we find something suspicious, the more effective the course of treatment. We all know that early detection can save lives when it comes to breast cancer.

Stamford Health:
How common is it for the side effect of enlarged lymph nodes to happen after the vaccine?

Dr. O'Riordan:
This is seen in about 10% of people.

Stamford Health:
Is there anything in general you would like to tell those who are either vaccine hesitant, or "scared" of getting a mammogram?

Dr. O'Riordan:

If you’re eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, or if it’s time for a baseline or routine mammogram, please don’t put off either! Science, medicine, and most importantly your doctor, are all on your side, so talk to them if you have any concerns.

Also, mammograms do not hurt! I cannot emphasize this enough. We make it comfortable, safe, and convenient for you with a caring staff, a welcoming environment that follows all COVID-19 protocols, and locations in Stamford, Darien, Wilton and Greenwich.

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