RICHMOND, Va. -- Studies have shown women are likely to receive a false positive in mammogram readings after getting vaccinated for COVID-19 due to swollen lymph nodes.
Patients like Dee Kannon have been anxiously waiting to get vaccinated. "I just know I didn't want to get COVID," she said.
With both shots out of the way, Kannon is getting ready to check off what's next on her list -- her mammogram.
She gets one every May like clockwork. "My annual mammogram. That's how we found my breast cancer in 2009," Kannon said.
But the breast cancer survivor and awareness advocate started to get concerned after learning the COVID vaccines could cause swollen lymph nodes--and possibly triggering a false positive in mammogram readings.
"That's a scary thing to hear. It's worrisome and I'm sure it is for a lot of women," Kannon said.
"When we see a swollen lymph node on mammograms, we don't know what the cause is," Dr. Priti Shah said.
Shah, Director of Breast Imaging at VCU Massey Cancer Center, said lymph nodes are part of our immune system. They fight off anything that attacks the body.
For the COVID vaccine, the swollen lymph nodes mean the shot is working. In breast cancer, swelling in the armpit could be a sign that cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes.
"It's really uncommon for one or two swollen lymph nodes to be the only sign of breast cancer," Shah said.
Shah said that's when more tests would be done to determine what is causing the lymph nodes to swell.
With the possibility of swollen lymph nodes coming up in the Moderna and Pfizer trials, and with women experiencing the swelling after getting vaccinated The Society of Breast Imaging is issuing new guidelines for routine mammograms:
*Get a mammogram before getting the vaccine.
*Or Wait 4 to 6 weeks after last dose
Shah said what patients shouldn't do is skip their appointment---especially if they feel something like a lump."We would just want to avoid delaying a potential cancer diagnosis if we can," Shah said.
Kannon's doctor advised her to push back her mammogram. It's now in June. It's another appointment she hopes will bring her peace of mind.
"I'll be at ease. I'm glad I got my two shots. That's the main thing too," Kannon said.
On the 6th of the month, CBS 6 and VCU Massey Cancer Center remind women to contact their buddy to remind them to conduct a monthly breast self-exam. If it is time, you should also schedule an annual clinical breast exam and mammogram, which are key to early detection.