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Disclaimer: At UPMC HealthBeat, we strive to provide the most up-to-date facts in our stories when we publish them. We also make updates to our content as information changes. However, education about COVID-19 can shift quickly based on new data, emerging variants, or other factors. The information in this story was accurate as of its publish date. We also encourage you to visit other reliable websites for updated information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and your state and local governments. 

Note: At UPMC, we believe in the importance of mammograms. We also encourage people who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to get vaccinated.

If you already have a mammogram appointment, you do not need to reschedule it around the COVID-19 vaccine. If you feel strongly about rescheduling, you should reschedule your mammogram for before your vaccine appointment date.

Call UPMC Magee-Womens Imaging at 412-641-4700 or 1-800-649-4077, and we can accommodate your request. We offer easy access to mammograms, including same-day scheduling.

A mammogram is an important screening for women. It can find changes in breast tissue and lead to early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer.

Recently, swollen lymph nodes have been reported as a rare side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine. Three vaccines, developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, are currently being distributed in the U.S.

This side effect could alter the reading of your mammogram because swollen lymph nodes are also a rare sign of breast cancer.

Here’s what you should know.

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Should I Schedule My Mammogram Around the COVID-19 Vaccine?

At UPMC, we recommend women begin to get a yearly mammogram at age 40. If you are 40 and older, you do not need a prescription for your annual routine screening mammogram.

We also encourage people who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to get vaccinated.

If you do not currently have a mammogram appointment, you may want to consider scheduling your mammogram around the vaccine — as long as you’re not delaying care. Swollen lymph nodes are a rare side effect of the vaccine, and they could affect the reading of your mammogram.

To avoid any potential issues, the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) recommends scheduling your mammogram either:

  • Before getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Four weeks after getting your final dose of the vaccine.

Mammograms are a crucial part of maintaining your overall breast health. If you already have a mammogram appointment scheduled for less than four weeks after your final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, you do not have to reschedule it over concerns about this side effect. If you feel strongly about rescheduling, you should reschedule your mammogram for before your scheduled vaccine appointment.

If your mammography appointment is less than 4 weeks after getting the vaccine, tell your technician which arm you used to received the vaccine and whether you received the first or second dose.

If you need a mammogram and don’t yet have a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, you should try to schedule your mammogram appointment now. If you do have a vaccine appointment, you should keep that appointment and try to schedule a routine screening mammogram 4 weeks after receiving the final dose.

If your mammogram appointment is not scheduled yet, call us at 412-641-4700 or 1-800-649-4077. We will work with you to accommodate easy access now or 4 weeks after you receive the second vaccine dose if you desire.

If you have a suspicious lump or swelling in your breast, contact your doctor immediately about scheduling a diagnostic mammogram.

The COVID-19 Vaccine and Mammograms

Like many other vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine may cause some side effects, which generally are mild and go away within a few days.

Some women have developed swelling in the lymph nodes under the arm in which they received the COVID-19 vaccine. This is a rare side effect caused by the vaccine activating your immune system. It typically goes away within a few days or weeks.

Swollen lymph nodes can affect mammograms because radiologists look for any changes on your scans. Swollen lymph nodes are also a rare sign of breast cancer.

According to the SBI, if your mammogram shows swollen lymph nodes, your radiologist will typically recommend a follow-up exam. Because of that, it’s important to keep the timing of your COVID-19 vaccine and your mammogram in mind.

What Should I Do If I Notice Swelling or a Lump Under My Arm?

If you notice swelling or a lump underneath your arm before getting the COVID-19 vaccine, call your doctor to get it checked out.

If you develop swelling or a lump under the arm where you received the vaccine, use a cold compress to reduce the pain and swelling. If the symptoms get worse or don’t go away after a week, call your doctor.

The UPMC Magee-Womens Breast Cancer Program specializes in preventing, diagnosing, and treating breast cancer. Magee-Womens Imaging can help with early diagnosis and detection. For more information, call 412-641-4700 or 1-800-649-4077, or request an appointment online.

Patients in Central Pa. can conveniently schedule their mammogram online or by calling 717-230-3700.

Sources

Society of Breast Imaging, SBI Screening Mammography Recommendations for Women Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine. Link

About UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital

For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long-renowned for its services to women and babies but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Our patient-first approach ensures you and your loved ones get the care you need. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and our NICU is one of the largest in the country. Our network of care – from imaging centers to hospital services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland, giving you a chance to get the expert care you need close to home. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes UPMC Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.

About UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

When you are facing cancer, you need the best care possible. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center provides world-class cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment, to help you in your cancer battle. We are the only comprehensive cancer center in our region, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. We have more than 70 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, with more than 200 oncologists – making it easier for you to find world-class care close to home. Our internationally renowned research team is striving to find new advances in prevention, detection, and treatment. Most of all, we are here for you. Our patient-first approach aims to provide you and your loved ones the care and support you need. To find a provider near you, visit our website.