COLORADO SPRINGS — Following up on our last story, where Ethel Amutan shared her experience of having a regularly scheduled mammogram come back “abnormal” a few weeks after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, we're looking further into the new guidelines around mammograms and COVID-19 vaccines.
As the vaccine continues to roll out, appointments can be hard to come by. If one opens and you are at high risk for breast cancer, Dr. Jason Allen, director of breast imaging for UCHealth's southern region, says, “Get your vaccine and don't delay getting your mammogram if you're high risk, or if you have a symptom of some sort. A lump or changes in the skin, nipple discharge or anything else that is concerning to you about either breast, certainly come in so that we can check that out. It may or may not be associated with the vaccine if you've had one recently, but we certainly don't want to miss the opportunity to catch cancer early and save a life. All women that come into our center for a screening mammogram or diagnostic imaging, we are now asking about their COVID-19 vaccine status, if they've had it, when they had it and which arm they received the vaccine in.”
Dr. Allen adds, If you are not asked when you go for your mammogram about your COVID vaccine status - make sure to tell your provider.
“If you are at low risk of breast cancer, get your vaccine if you have the chance and then reschedule your mammogram - but don't miss it. If you are low risk and you're not having any issues and you're getting the vaccine before you're due for your mammogram we would suggest you wait 6 to 8, even up to 12 weeks after completing your vaccine regimen to give your lymph nodes time to return to normal.”
As Ethel waits for a follow-up ultrasound after her second dose, she feels it is a small bump in the road and getting a COVID vaccine was important for her.
“I am going to treat the lymph nodes as a separate issue. Again, I won’t know (for sure) why my lymph nodes are swollen until I go back for the second ultrasound and the radiologist gives me the all clear. I believe that getting the vaccine personally is just one additional step for protecting myself. When I go to the grocery store, for example, now I'm not as worried anymore. I will be fully protected up to 95% because of the type of vaccine I received, at the end of the second week after the second dose.”
Ethel also hopes others will benefit from her sharing her experience. “My advice for others is not just for women, but also for men. If you find a suspicious lump, regardless - it's important for you to have that conversation with your doctor and ask for your doctor's recommendation on when you should get scheduled for a mammogram.”
And Dr. Allen says this lymph node issue around COVID vaccines is one more reminder about the importance of - especially women staying on top of their breast self-exams and annual mammograms.
“If you feel something in your breast and even if you feel something new in your under arm it's something that we need to check out. It could be related to the breast itself, any new lump in the breast or in the under arm, especially in the case where you haven't had a recent vaccine that would be a worrisome finding and it should be investigated as quickly as possible.”
UCHealth has a question-and-answer form online and a lot of great information about breast cancer screenings and COVID-19 vaccination. You can find it at: BREAST CANCER SCREENING OR COVID-19 VACCINE? DO BOTH [uchealth.org] (https://www.uchealth.org/today/breast-cancer-screening-mammogram-and-covid-19-vaccination/ [uchealth.org])
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