A new directive from the CDC advises that women who received the COVID-19 vaccine SHOULD wait about four to six weeks before getting a mammogram. The new advisory comes in the wake of reports that the vaccine can cause swelling in the lymph nodes that can be mistaken as an indication of cancer.
The issue first came to light a few weeks ago, with CNN highlighting a number of stories involving women who understandably became frightened after detecting lumps in areas in and around their breasts. In one particular example, Dr. Devon Quasha relays how she started noticing tender and swollen lumps under her armpit “along with a large swelling above her collarbone” after getting vaccinated.
According to Dr. Connie Lehman, the chief of breast imaging at Massachusetts General, radiologists across the country quickly started exchanging similar stories about seemingly concerning mammograms occurring in the wake of COVID-19 vaccinations.
In order to prevent an abundance of false positives, the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine guidance now includes the following pargaraph:
If you are due for a mammogram and have been recently vaccinated for COVID-19, ask your doctor how long you should wait after vaccination to get your mammogram. People who have received a COVID-19 vaccine can have swelling in the lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy) in the underarm near where they got the shot. This swelling is a normal sign that your body is building protection against COVID-19. However, it is possible that this swelling could cause a false reading on a mammogram. Some experts recommend getting your mammogram before being vaccinated or waiting four to six weeks after getting your vaccine.
On a related note, a study published in the Radiological Society of North America relays that regular mammography screening can significantly reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer. The study specifically found that the likelihood of dying from breast cancer within 10 years of diagnosis was 50% lower amongst study participants who scheduled regular mammograms.
Put simply, routine mammography screening is incredibly important but shouldn’t be scheduled within the first few weeks following a COVID-19 vaccination.
Incidentally, Dr. Dana Smetherman recently told VerywellHealth that a similar swelling of the lymph nodes can happen with other vaccines:
Enlarged lymph nodes can also happen after other vaccinations, such as the HPV vaccine or flu shots, but Smetherman says the situation with COVID-19 vaccines is a little different “because we’re all getting this vaccine together at the same time.”
On a related note, the effort to vaccinate the entire country continues to move along at an encouraging clip. According to data from NPR’s vaccine tracker, 21.4% of Americans have received at least one vaccine dose. All told, the US has administered 109 million vaccine doses to date out of a supply of 135 million. Should things continue to progress at the current rate, the US will achieve herd immunity before the end of summer at the absolute latest. If the vaccination rate accelerates — and there’s a good chance that it will — the US might reach herd immunity before summer.
One of the more optimistic takes comes from Dr. Makary of Johns Hopkins who a few weeks ago said the following in a Wall Street Journal op-ed:
There is reason to think the country is racing toward an extremely low level of infection. As more people have been infected, most of whom have mild or no symptoms, there are fewer Americans left to be infected. At the current trajectory, I expect Covid will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life.
All the while, the COVID infection rate in the US — which currently stands at about 55,000 new cases per day — is about as low as it’s been since mid-October.