Birmingham, Ala. (WBMA) — ABC 33/40 is taking a look at how taking the vaccine could impact routine screenings, specifically mammograms.
Our body's immune system is harvested in the lymph nodes.
"A natural response to any foreign body such as a vaccine, an infection, or even tumor cells, those lymph nodes can enlarge," says Dr. Erica Stringer-Reasor, of UAB's O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center.
They can enlarge, but Stringer-Reasor says that doesn't mean they always will.
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"Most patients will not experience any swollen lymph nodes after receiving the vaccine," she says.
If your lymph nodes do swell, the American Cancer Society says the time it takes for them to shrink back to normal after taking the COVID-19 vaccine may be a few days to a few weeks, although this is still being studied. If you're scheduled for a mammogram, give your doctor a heads up you've been recently vaccinated.
"Unfortunately, we cannot tell the difference between swelling of lymph nodes from the vaccine or from cancer cells. What we encourage women to do is if they are getting their screening mammograms, they should alert the technician that they received the vaccine, the date of the vaccine, and the arm in which they received the vaccine," she says.
That way, when the radiologist reads the mammogram, there's enough clinical information to explain a false positive or an enlarged lymph node where the patient received the vaccine.
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Stringer-Reasor says there's no need for you to postpone your mammogram.
"Most of the time this is a disease that is very curable and we are encouraging women to continue with their screening and mammograms on time so that we can detect the disease early," she says.
If you've been vaccinated and notice swollen or tender lymph nodes that do not go away after a few weeks or if they continue to get bigger, contact your doctor to discuss the next steps.