Dr Debra Patt: Do Not Delay Diagnostic Visits for Breast Cancer

Debra Patt, MD, PhD, MBA, executive vice president of Texas Oncology, explains recommendations for annual mammography screenings after COVID-19 vaccination and why guidelines differ for diagnostic visits.

Because lymph nodes tend to swell, women should wait at least 6 weeks when scheduling a screening mammogram after COVID-19 vaccination; however, diagnostic visits for lumps should not wait, emphasized Debra Patt, MD, PhD, MBA, executive vice president of Texas Oncology.


Is there an optimal waiting period between COVID-19 vaccination or booster dosing and scheduling either a mammogram or an annual gynecological visit?

If someone has a screening mammogram—meaning that they don’t have any symptoms, but they’re just getting their routine annual screen—then, on average, they should probably wait about 6 weeks after they get a vaccination for coronavirus.

The reason for this is because sometimes when you get a vaccination, it can cause lymph nodes in the armpit or the axilla to become enlarged. There’s nothing wrong with them, it’s just a natural result of having a vaccination in your arm that is stimulating your immune system. Your lymph nodes are kind of doing what they’re supposed to be doing. They respond to it, and whenever we see that happen, which is common, it usually resolves after about 6 weeks. So we think if people are getting a screening mammogram, then they should probably wait about 6 weeks after COVID-19 vaccination.

That’s different, though, than women who are getting a diagnostic mammogram. If you have a mass in your breast, you should not delay in getting it worked up. And there’s really not an issue with cervical cancer screening and the timing of vaccination.

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