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It has taken about a year of waiting, but now COVID-19 vaccinated women are going to get their mammograms in very large numbers. They are flocking back to diagnostic offices like Hollywood Diagnostics Center in South Florida. They are catching up on routine tests that were delayed by the pandemic.

But there is one scary thing that is happening In some cases, false red flags for breast cancer are showing up.

Like the typical vaccine side effects of sore arms or slight fevers, lymph nodes enlarged by the immune system’s response to the vaccine are virtually always a sign that the vaccine is doing its job. But for those whose job it is to read mammograms for signs of malignancy, the unexplained appearance of swollen lymph nodes has sparked concern and recommendations that the patient is called back for further testing. The result has been some scares and trepidation for the women and for those who care for them.

There is a tough situation occurring when there are false alarms and women are getting worry-inducing calls reporting an “abnormal reading” on their mammograms. With that comes the unwelcome additional tests that tend to follow. But as much as doctors wish to spare patients from unnecessary worry, they also want to avoid missing a signal that could be important.

 

What is Happening With the Results?

With many basic questions about the rash of enlarged lymph nodes still unanswered, the world of breast cancer screening has been forced to make some calls on the fly. The radiologists who check mammograms for signs of cancer are not easily rattled. They examine thousands of breast images each week and make lots of judgment calls.

What happened was that the COVID-19 vaccines were rolled out. Healthcare workers and older women began to pour in for mammograms, Doctors reading mammograms across the country we’re seeing the same thing.

With COVID-19 vaccines now widely available and coronavirus cases declining, patients are getting current on their breast cancer screenings. Doctors have told their patients that if they do get a callback after a mammogram, the culprit is far more likely to be a their recent vaccination than cancer.

Radiologists have long known that a recent dose of vaccine for shingles, tetanus or flu can cause lymph nodes to appear slightly swollen. But the sudden appearance of so many swollen lymph nodes, in so many women, came as a shock. In many cases, so was the size of the swelling. They also tended to be much bigger in one armpit than in the other. In one woman, the swelling would be seen only in the left axilla. In another, it would be all in her right.

It was happening everywhere. Doctors in radiology practices were finding the swollen nodes in imaging studies of the heads, necks and pelvises of recently vaccinated people. By late February, articles in specialty journals began detailing what radiologists kept seeing.

What are the Plans Moving Forward?

Experts agree that women should be asked if they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19. They should be asked how recently and in which arm they got their shot in. If possible, women should plan a screening mammogram at least six weeks following her second dose of vaccine. Women who have had a previous breast cancer should get their shot in the opposite arm.

And in the absence of other evidence pointing to the possibility of cancer, recently-vaccinated women with enlarged axillary lymph nodes should be called back at least six weeks later to give the lymph nodes time to recover.

If you live in Hollywood, Florida, or the South Florida area in general, and are in need of a mammogram or any medical imaging, then call the Hollywood Diagnostic Center today! Our medical professionals are ready and willing to help you through these difficult and trying times. All of the staff within is friendly and ready to answer any questions you have regarding any medical imaging technologies and procedures being taken during the public health emergency. Call the Hollywood Diagnostic Center at Phone: (954) 966-3600 today!

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