BATON ROUGE, La. — Physicians nationwide have noticed the COVID-19 vaccine can cause swollen lymph nodes that mammograms are picking up, said a Louisiana radiologist.
In non-pandemic times, this would set off alarms as 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,” said Dr. Quentin Alleva, a radiologist at Ochsner Health.
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 a correlation between swelling and the vaccine, when we were much more aware of it we felt more at ease,” Alleva said.
This kind of swelling on a mammogram usually requires a follow-up or biopsy. Now, however, radiologists are asking their recently vaccinated patients who are experiencing this to wait four to 12 weeks to see if the swelling goes down.
“If it’s decreasing in size, that’s a very good sign something is benign,” Alleva said.
Radiologists at Ochsner Health recommend that patients have their mammogram performed even if they have recently been vaccinated.
“If you are one of those small numbers of patients who happen to have enlarged lymph nodes, you can always take care of it then and there,” Alleva said.
He 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 about 16% of patients after their second dose,” Alleva said.
He added that this is not something to fear, but instead something to be aware of if you are going to get your yearly screening.