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COVID-19 vaccine side effect can be mistaken as breast cancer in mammograms

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Posted at 7:23 PM, Mar 17, 2021

LAKELAND, Fla. — ABC Action News is learning more about a possible side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine that could result in a false positive in female mammograms.

“I bent over to pick up a sock off the floor and I got this fiery slash of pain through my left breast, almost like you get a shock from a light socket,” said Dr. Lucy Lapekas.

After weeks of feeling a sharp pain in her breast, Dr. Lapekas called her doctor's office to schedule a mammogram.

“The appointment nurse asked me if I had had a COVID shot. I said no I haven’t had one yet. She said ‘oh that’s good,’” said Dr. Lapekas.

ABC Action News asked Dr. Toan Nguyen, Director of Breast Oncology at Lakeland Regional Health, why it was important to know whether a patient has received a COVID-19 vaccine prior to a mammogram.

“The COVID vaccine can cause the regional lymph nodes especially on the side of the arm where the vaccine is given, that the lymph nodes can enlarge. The enlarged lymph nodes are one of the signs that we look for on a mammogram to detect cancer,” explained Toan Nguyen, Director of Breast Oncology at Lakeland Regional Health.

The Society of Breast Imaging has released recommendations that state, women should schedule their routine mammogram either before getting the COVID-19 vaccine or four to six weeks after their final dose, in order to avoid false positives.

Dr. Nguyen says this guidance does not apply if you feel a mass, lump or discharge in your breasts.

“We don’t want to delay mammograms if there is a problem in the breasts regardless of when you got the vaccine,” he said.