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VERIFY: Can the COVID-19 vaccine lead to a false-positive mammogram?

According to both the CDC and the American Cancer Society, one of the side effects of the vaccine is swollen lymph nodes under the arm where you got the injection.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mammograms are an essential way to screen for breast cancer. 

But since the pandemic began, women and men have been putting them off. 

Once the COVID-19 vaccine came out, some began to wonder if the COVID-19 vaccine could lead to a false positive mammogram.

Let's Verify. 

SOURCES

Dr. Laura Dean - breast cancer specialist with the Cleveland Clinic 

The American Cancer Society

Kaiser Permanente 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

WHAT WE FOUND

According to both the CDC and the American Cancer Society, one of the side effects of the vaccine is swollen lymph nodes under the arm where you got the injection. 

According to Kaiser Permanente, the swelling is a natural response as your body's immune system makes antibodies and trains cells to protect you.

However, this is causing concern for many because it can mimic a breast lump. 

Dr. Dean said it is important for women to know there's a possibility for mammogram pictures to pick up a swollen lymph node, which may result in additional ultrasound testing.

She added that this is common and women shouldn't be alarmed. 

"If we do see lymph node enlargement on a screening mammogram, what the Society of Breast Imaging is recommending is that, essentially we bring the patients back, do a targeted ultrasound just to get a good idea of what those lymph nodes look like, and then we're just monitoring them," Dr. Dean explained.

So, yes, the COVID-19 vaccine can lead to a false-positive mammogram. But, it's just a temporary reaction to receiving the shot.

Despite this, the Society of Breast Imaging recommends women still get their vaccine and then schedule a mammogram at least four weeks after their second dose so the swelling can go down.

They do suggest not waiting if you're overdue for a mammogram or have symptoms.

This isn't unique to the COVID-19 vaccine either.

Experts say vaccines for the flu, pneumonia, shingles and tetanus can also swell lymph nodes.

VERIFY is dedicated to helping the public distinguish between true and false information. The VERIFY team, with help from questions submitted by the audience, tracks the spread of stories or claims that need clarification or correction. Have something you want VERIFIED? Text us at 704-329-3600 or visit /verify.