From Prasad R. Kudalkar, MD, medical oncologist and hematologist

April 6, 2021

We know the past year has undoubtedly been one of fear and anxiety for cancer patients and other immunocompromised individuals who are more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus and complications. Fortunately, the COVID vaccine is being administered worldwide. While the vaccine is safe for the immunocompromised, the medical community is beginning to discover incidences of lymphadenopathy, or an enlarged lymph node(s), on imaging scans which have been noted after receiving the COVID vaccine. When this appears on a scan for a cancer patient, it could be alarming.

Known COVID vaccine side effects are expected to be like those of other vaccines with the possible appearance of a swollen lymph node. As part of the normal immune response to a vaccine, nodes under the armpits could swell because of their proximity to the injection site.

At OHC, we’ve seen a couple of patients who had enlarged lymph nodes appear on their diagnostic scans after they received the COVID vaccine. These patients had recently received their COVID vaccine and fortunately, the images were a false alarm for cancer and the patients’ swelling subsided after a few days or weeks. It’s important that we get the word out to increase awareness about potential vaccine side effects and prevent any unnecessary anxiety. While we consider swollen lymph nodes as a potential concern, there are other non-threatening reasons this may occur.

The Society of Breast Imaging is recommending scheduling your mammogram either before your first dose of the COVID vaccine or about four-to-six weeks following your second dose, if possible. One shouldn’t be canceled because of the other. As healthcare providers, we need to document if a patient has had a mammogram shortly after the vaccine. OHC’s cancer experts will interpret your imaging taking into consideration the timing of your vaccine dose. It’s imperative that patients, physicians, and radiologists have clear communication. Both the imaging scans and the COVID vaccine are important to the care of our patients.

To learn more about OHC and cancer screening guidelines, or to request a second opinion, visit ohcare.com or call 1-888-649-4800.

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