Swollen lymph nodes and the COVID-19 vaccine | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

Swollen lymph nodes are a normal and harmless COVID-19 vaccine side effect

The swollen lymph nodes are appearing on the same side of the body as the COVID-19 vaccine injection.

The COVID-19 vaccine is causing swollen lymph nodes in many, but the harmless side effect is causing alarm as some mistake the temporary underarm lump for a tumor.

“The concern is understandable, as a lump in the armpit can be a sign of breast cancer,” said Sarah H. Callahan, M.D., a Norton Healthcare radiologist.

Dr. Callahan has seen many patients whose mammograms show swollen lymph nodes after a COVID-19 vaccination.

Swollen lymph nodes are a normal vaccine side effect, as the body produces antibodies against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“Lymph nodes are a part of the body’s immune system, so when you receive a vaccine, those lymph nodes can become inflamed as the body develops an immune response to the virus you’re being vaccinated against,” said Dr. Callahan.

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The swollen lymph nodes are appearing on the same side of the body as the COVID-19 vaccine injection.

Scheduling your mammogram around the COVID-19 vaccine

If you are due for your annual mammogram and it’s your turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine, physicians advise scheduling with the side effect in mind. Schedule your mammogram prior to the first dose of the vaccine or four to six weeks after the second dose. If you have a new concern that requires a mammogram for a closer look, do not delay that appointment.

“We don’t want to discourage anyone from receiving their annual mammogram or that COVID-19 vaccine — they are both very important,” Dr. Callahan said. “If you happen to have the two around the same time, that’s OK. Just be sure to let your physician know, ahead of your mammogram, on which side you received your vaccine and when.”

Doctors also advise that if you’ve had breast cancer on one side of your body, to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on the opposite side.

If you have a lymph node that is getting larger or swelling is not going away, contact your doctor.


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