(WXYZ) – While enlarged lymph nodes are a totally normal and harmless response to a vaccine. They have caused some confusion during the COVID vaccination process. Especially for women.
“People started getting vaccinated in December and we had our healthcare workers on their mammograms and we thought ‘Wow, this person really has enlarged lymph nodes,'” said Dr. Connie Lehman, director of breast imaging at the General Hospital of Massachusetts. in Boston.
On a mammogram, an enlarged lymph node appears as white spots. This is also what doctors see when a cancerous tumor is spreading. Therefore, making this connection between the vaccine and the lymph nodes was important in preventing what Lehman calls “false positives.”
“We have reported this at mammography centers before, but nowhere near the level that we saw with the COVID vaccine. We believe it is because the COVID vaccine creates a very strong immune response,” said Lehman, who has written two articles. on the subject in hopes of getting the word out to avoid unnecessary “cancer scares” and anxiety and unnecessary testing costs.
“We want to find cancer early when it can be treated and cured; we also don’t want patients to come back for additional imaging, biopsies, or treatment, when they don’t actually have cancer,” said Lehman, who is the author of two papers on the connection between the vaccines and lymph nodes.
“This is a normal inflammatory response – inflammatory health, so we want to calm the anxiety,” he said.
But does this mean that women should ignore their mammogram to avoid confusion? Absolutely not.
While a simple solution may seem to recommend that women get screened 4-6 weeks after their second shot, once the swelling goes away, Lehman notes that not all women have the flexibility, time, or the resources to simply reschedule. And missing a screening test can be more damaging.
In the year of the COVID pandemic, the US had the fewest mammograms and, as a result, an advanced diagnosis of late breast cancer is feared.
“We will see more breast cancer deaths due to COVID than we will ever see in the US, 100 percent,” Lehman said, adding later. “It’s almost impossible for us to avoid it unless we make a total effort to bring women back for a screening mammogram.”
Rather than reschedule an evaluation, Lehman said just make sure your healthcare provider knows you were vaccinated and in which arm so they can take this into account during the evaluation.
“The message could not be clearer, get vaccinated as soon as possible, the second message is, don’t skip the screening mammogram,” he said.
It is suggested that women between the ages of 50 and 74 have mammograms every one to two years.