Mammograms are picking up swelling in women’s breasts following the Covid-19 vaccine, raising ‘unnecessary’ fears about cancer, radiologists say
- Doctors are finding that the vaccine often causes swelling in lymph nodes
- These are being detected in ultrasound and mammogram breast cancer screens
- Experts are now urging doctors to not immediately take a biopsy
- Lymph node swelling is not a commonly seen side-effect for other vaccines
Some women are developing swollen lumps in their breasts as a result of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to US doctors.
The lumps are in the body’s lymph nodes — a network of vessels which filters out germs — and are occuring on the same side of the chest as the arm in which the jab was administered.
Mammograms have uncovered the breast lumps following vaccination in several women, raising ‘unnecessary’ fears about breast cancer.
Based on the findings, doctors are urging women to avoid going for a mammogram for four weeks after they receive their Covid-19 vaccine.
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Some women are developing swollen lumps in their breasts as a result of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to US doctors. The lumps are in the body’s lymph nodes — a network of vessels which filters out germs
Dr Devon Quasha works as a physician in Boston and found a lump in her left breast during a routine self-screen.
She subsequently scheduled a mammogram and an ultrasound to investigate.
One week before her imaging appointment she got her first Covid-19 vaccine, the Moderna jab.
Shortly after her inoculation her left arm began to hurt and then several swollen lumps appeared around her left armpit and around the collar bone on her left side.
Dr Quasha was told by her radiologist that although the breast lump was likely harmless, the swollen nodes would, under normal conditions, be concerning.
Such a discovery would normally warrant further investigation and an immediate biopsy where a small piece of tissue is removed and sent off for analysis.
But due to the recent vaccination Dr Quasha and her doctor decided to hold off on this and instead booked a follow-up ultrasound in six weeks.
Covid has had a ‘catastrophic’ impact on cancer treatments and ‘a crisis is brewing’, the World Health Organization has warned.
Millions of people across Europe saw their scans or treatment delayed because of lockdowns put in place to control the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
As a result, many will start treatment later when their disease is more advanced and harder to treat, meaning they are more likely to die from it or be left disabled.
Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said: ‘Due to travel restrictions and the enormous strain on health systems of fighting Covid-19, cancer services have been disrupted across the entire region, significantly delaying diagnosis and treatment, directly impacting the chances of a cure or survival for hundreds of thousands of cancer patients.’
Many more people will die in the coming years, particularly of breast and bowel cancer, for which screening appointments have been postponed, he said.
Dr Kluge’s comments echo concerns raised last year by cancer charities in the UK, who said shutting out patients in the spring would lead to a cancer timebomb.
Except for urgent appointments and emergency treatment, many hospital services were shut down in 2020’s first lockdown in preparation for a surge in Covid patients. It took months for the NHS to get back on its feet and, during that time, the number of people waiting for routine operations surged to a record 4.46million.
Macmillan Cancer Support has been sounding the alarm for months that hundreds of thousands fewer appointments to discuss suspected cancer have happened during the pandemic, meaning growing numbers of people are living undiagnosed.
Dr Connie Lehman, head of breast imaging in Massachusetts General’s department of radiology, told CNN: ‘We all started talking about it, and it was like a wildfire.
‘I cannot tell you how many women are showing nodes on mammograms and people thought it was going to be not that common.’
‘There have been some false scares and some unnecessary biopsies because people didn’t think to ask, and they assume that the node was the cancer coming back,’ she adds.
Such was the scale of the issue of biopsies being done following mammograms and ultrasounds which revealed harmless lymph node lumps brought on by the vaccine that the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) in January urged clinicians to hold off.
Fourteen leading experts said swollen lymph nodes are only seen in around 0.03 per cent of pre-Covid mammograms. When they are detected, they are cancerous between 20 and 56 per cent of the time.
They also say swollen lymph nodes are ‘rarely reported’ after other vaccines, including HPV, the BCG jab for TB and flu jabs.
‘However, higher rates of axillary adenopathy have been reported with administration of both COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration: Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech,’ they say.
For the Moderna jab, one in nine recipients have lymph node swelling or tenderness after the first dose, rising to one in six after the second dose.
For the Pfizer jab, it is less common but lasts longer, with the swelling persisting for around ten days, whereas the lumps in Moderna patients disappear after two days.
The group of experts now urge doctors to not immediately order a biopsy and instead get information on the Covid vaccine status, when it was received and in what arm.
The advice is to schedule a routine screening done before the first jab, or between four and six weeks after the second dose. If there are lumps at either of these ties, that is cause for concern.
It also advises doctors minimise patient anxiety by saying ‘vaccines of all types can result in temporary swelling of the lymph nodes, which may be a sign that the body is making antibodies in response as intended’.
Dr Quasha told CNN says knowing her condition is not an anomaly and many other women are in a similar situation offered her reassurance.
‘The point here is that there are a number of side effects from the vaccine which are not dangerous but can sometimes increase patient anxiety,’ she said.
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