HealthBuddy Check 6


How COVID boosters can impact cancer treatments

Posted at 5:18 PM, Dec 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-07 11:37:37-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Michelle Futrell got her COVID vaccine in January 2021.

When the COVID booster shots rolled out this fall, she knew she wanted to get one.

"I had been waiting for them to approve [the booster] and once they did I was like. 'Oh, yes I can get it,'" she said. "Then, I realized I had my annual MRI coming up. I was like, 'Oh. I'm going to wait.'"

Michelle. a nurse at VCU Massey Cancer Center, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019 and got treatment.

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She still has to get an MRI and mammogram every year.

"I didn't want to have to go through the worry and fear of having swollen lymph nodes and not knowing if it was truly a booster or was it cancer. To me, that just felt like agony," Futrell said.

Just like the COVID vaccine, there's concern about the booster.

"The same issue we had for the original vaccine that we're now seeing with the booster which is swelling of the lymph nodes and reaction to the booster itself," Dr. Kandace McGuire said.

Dr. McGuire is Chief of Breast Surgery at Massey.

She said it's the body's reaction to the spiked protein.

"It's what you want to see, but it can make screening somebody for breast cancer difficult," McGuire said.

McGuire said the standard recommendation for getting the vaccine or the booster is to get the shot six weeks before any breast screening.

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"That's a good safe period of time to let those lymph nodes calm down again," McGuire said.

McGuire added women should get the shot on the opposite side of their cancer.

She said people who are on active treatment right now are considered immunocompromised and should be looking to protect themselves.

Michelle kept her annual MRI appointment and then got her booster shot right before Thanksgiving.

"I am glad I was able to get it because they talk about immunity waning over time," Futrell said.