Health TipsMarch 25 2021

What You Need To Know About COVID-19 Vaccines and Mammograms

A doctor reads a mammogram on a computer

COVID-19 vaccines and mammograms are both very important your health. University Breast Center and the Cancer Institute want you to be aware of a COVID vaccine side effect that could impact your mammogram.

Follow these guidelines if you don't have any breast symptoms and you are also scheduled for a COVID-19 vaccine around the time of your annual mammogram

What do I need to know about COVID vaccines and mammograms?

Some women who receive the COVID-19 vaccine develop swollen lymph nodes under their arm on the same side as their vaccine. This is a normal vaccine side effect. The swollen lymph nodes usually return to normal on their own in a few days or weeks.

Breast radiologists look closely for any changes on your mammogram, including swollen lymph nodes, which can be a rare sign of breast cancer. Our radiologists have seen an increase in mammograms showing potential findings that can be confused with cancer.

In line with recommendations from the Society of Breast Imaging, we encourage you to try to schedule you mammogram either before receiving the first COVID-19 vaccine dose, or at least four weeks after the second dose. This reduces the chance that swollen lymph nodes from the vaccine will appear on your mammogram.

When should I reschedule my mammogram?

Consider rescheduling your mammogram if it's scheduled:

  • Between your first and second COVID vaccine dose
  • Within four weeks after receiving your second vaccine dose

If possible, schedule your screening mammogram before your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Call University Breast Center at 865-305-9069 to talk with our scheduling team about the timing of your appointment.

If you are already overdue for your mammogram or cannot reschedule your mammogram soon after waiting four weeks after receiving your second vaccine, keep your screening mammogram appointment and still get your COVID-19 vaccine.

Getting vaccinated is critical to stop the spread of COVID-19. Regular screening mammograms help health care providers detect breast cancer as early as possible. Both are very important to ensure you stay healthy.

Please do not delay your mammogram if you are significantly overdue for your screening or if you skipped your 2020 screening.

What happens if I have swollen lymph nodes on my mammogram?

That depends on your medical history and when you received your vaccine. The breast radiologist may recommend that you return to the breast center for an ultrasound of your underarm area. They may also recommend a follow-up exam to show that the lymph nodes have returned to normal size.

What should I tell the technologist on the day of my screening mammogram?

Tell your mammography technologist if you have received a COVID-19 vaccine. Tell her:

  • When you received the vaccine
  • Which arm the provider gave it in
  • Whether it’s your first or second dose

This will help the breast radiologist interpreting your screening mammogram.

What if I have other breast problems?

If you have any changes in your breast or underarm, such as pain or a lump, contact your medical provider or University Breast Center. Follow these guidelines if you have no breast symptoms and are also scheduled for COVID-19 vaccine around the time of your annual mammogram.