COVID-19 vaccine causing swelling that’s showing up on mammograms

Coronavirus Vaccine

BATON ROUGE, La. (WGMB) — Ochsner Health Radiologist Dr. Quentin Alleva said physicians nationwide have noticed the COVID-19 vaccine can cause swollen lymph nodes that mammograms are picking up.

In non-pandemic times this would set off alarms for a sign of breast cancer. “I started noticing it myself right around the time the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered back in the middle of December,” Dr. Alleva said.

Physicians are now realizing the COVID-19 vaccine is setting off an immune response within the body that causes swelling. “Once we started figuring that out we started seeing correlation between swelling and the vaccine, when we were much more aware of it we felt more at ease,” Dr. Alleva said.

This kind of swelling on a mammogram usually requires a follow-up or biopsy. Today, however, radiologists are asking their patients who are recently vaccinated and experiencing this to wait 4-12 weeks to see if the swelling goes down before panicking.

“If it’s decreasing in size, that’s a very good sign something is benign,” Dr. Alleva said.

Radiologists at Ochsner Health recommend going ahead and have your mammogram performed if you are recently vaccinated. “If you are one of those small number of patients who happens to have enlarged lymph nodes you can always take care of it then and there,” Dr. Alleva said.

This reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine is rare. “Just to give you some statistics it’s approximately 11% of patients after their first dose.. and 16% of patients after their second dose,” Dr. Alleva said.

As more patients get vaccinated for COVID-19, Dr. Alleva wants to emphasize this is not something to be scared of, but to be aware of if you are going to get your yearly screening.

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