Huntsville Hospital doctor says coronavirus vaccine is causing swollen lymph nodes to appear on mammograms

Swollen lymph nodes after getting the coronavirus vaccine are normal. Nodes are responding to the vaccine and building antibodies.

Posted: Mar 2, 2021 5:59 PM
Updated: Mar 2, 2021 6:24 PM

Swollen lymph nodes are appearing on mammograms across the country. Usually, this is a sign of breast cancer, but if you've recently been vaccinated, your body is likely reacting to the coronavirus vaccine.

Medical Director of the Breast Center at Huntsville Hospital, Dr. Libby Shadinger, said she's seeing a patient every other day with lymph nodes swollen on the same side of the body where the coronavirus vaccine was injected.

"I just saw a case yesterday of a patient who had her vaccination six weeks ago and came in for her screening mammogram, and we saw some swollen lymph nodes on the side of her injection," said Dr. Shadinger. "She did not feel the nodes herself, but we did see them on the mammography." 

Ericka Hopkins, a nurse in North Alabama, said she got her second dose of the vaccine and felt tenderness.

"I began to feel it. It was noticeably enlarged," said Hopkins. 

The swollen nodules Hopkins had after getting the vaccine support what radiologists have been seeing in images.

Dr. Shadinger said as more people get vaccinated in the state, more patients will show swollen lymph nodes on their mammograms. She explained the reaction in your body is a response. 

"We're seeing a foreign pathogen in our lymph nodes and our immune system is becoming activated, which is exactly what we want from the body," said Dr. Shadinger. "It just, unfortunately, adds a little confusion to imaging." 

Women who are still concerned over their swollen lymph nodes or have a medical history of breast cancer can still get a biopsy. It's advised that you and your doctor make that decision together. 

Doctors are recommending that you try to schedule your mammograms before getting your coronavirus vaccine. If you're unable to do so, it's recommended after getting your vaccine to wait four to six weeks before making your mammogram appointment. 

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