Swollen Lymph Nodes After COVID-19 Vaccination Could Result in False Positive on Mammogram

SPRINGFIELD — Women and the COVID-19 vaccine are back in the news again.

First it was the question as to whether pregnant women should get the vaccine. Now the concern is over mammograms and the effects the COVID vaccines may play in imaging, resulting in false positives.

Since the first of the COVID-19 vaccines began to roll out in late December, radiologists across the country have seen an increase in abnormal mammograms showing swollen lymph nodes.

“The presence of swollen lymph nodes, although rare, on a mammogram could be a sign of breast cancer requiring an additional exam or even a biopsy. When women receive a call back after a mammogram, it can be quite anxiety-producing, but usually doesn’t mean cancer,” said radiologist Dr. Jennifer Hadro, medical co-director of Breast Imaging at Baystate Health.

To save women the anxiety over a possible false positive, the Society of Breast Imaging released the following statement:

“If possible, and when it does not unduly delay care, consider scheduling screening exams prior to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination or four to six weeks following the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccination.”

Hadro added that “wwollen lymph nodes on the side of the injection are not unusual after being vaccinated against other viruses such as the flu and may actually be a good sign. Their presence is an indication that the vaccine is likely doing its job and your body is beginning to build up an immunity to the virus.”

Women with irregular results on their mammogram will need a follow-up after their second dose of the vaccine in order to be certain that the inflammation was nothing more than a side effect to the vaccine.

“The recommendations above apply to screening mammography only, meaning women without any concerns such as a lump or other breast changes,” Hadro said. “We know that mammograms save lives, and if your doctor has ordered a mammogram as a precaution after feeling a lump or other concern, it’s important to keep that appointment even if you have been vaccinated in the past four to six weeks.”