Although the COVID19 pandemic has dragged on for a few years now, the vaccinations are relatively new and more needs to be learnt about them. When vaccines needed to fight the virus were released in 2020, they came with the promise of reducing severe infection. But for some people, the vaccine raised several questions. Some people reported breast pain after vaccination. Additionally, changes in the shape and size of the lymph nodes in the armpit were seen in the mammogram screenings.
What causes breast pain and lymph node changes after a COVID19 vaccine?
In the months following the COVID19 vaccine, people vaccinated -particularly women- began reporting breast pain or swelling of the lymph nodes. Thus pain often appeared after vaccination and usually on the breast on the same side of the body that the vaccine was administered. When this side effect was first reported, it was suspected to be caused by a normal immune reaction to the vaccine. However, this side effect happens- although rarely-with other types of vaccines, too, but was reported more frequently after COVID19 vaccination.
The lymph nodes are a part of the immune system and help to collect and destroy bacteria and other infectious agents like cancer cells. Swelling of the lymph nodes near the breasts is not a common phenomenon. In the beginning, women were advised to delay mammograms and other breast cancer screening by at least 4 to 6 weeks after vaccination to avoid unnecessary concern over this side effect. However, it became clear that the swelling developed after the vaccine could take months to resolve.
As waiting or delaying routine breast examinations and screenings can be risky, it is now recommended that mammograms and other screenings should not be delayed following a COVID19 vaccination. However, one should not be surprised if one is asked whether one has received a COVID19 vaccine during a screening mammogram. This is because your radiology technician may notice a change in the size or shape of the lymph nodes from previous screenings. Therefore, additional images may be collected to confirm whether the findings are vaccine-related or not due to other problems.
How can one differentiate between a vaccine-related side effect and symptoms of breast cancer?
It isn’t easy to differentiate between the two with a naked eye. Therefore, imaging studies like mammograms and ultrasound are usually recommended to examine what is under the surface of the breast tissue. In many cases, breast cancer may develop with few or no symptoms, so a sore armpit or breast pain may come from various causes.
Lymph node swelling associated with breast cancer is usually associated with other symptoms like:-
- A new lump that can be felt in the armpit
- Thickened skin or swelling in the breast
- Dimpling of the skin on the breast
- Irritation or redness on the skin
- Changes in texture or shape of the nipple
- Flaky skin on the breast
- Discharge from the nipple
- Breast pain
What are the possible causes of breast pain?
There are several causes behind breast pain:-
- Menstrual cycle
- Pre-menopause or menopause
- Hormonal changes
- Trauma or injury
- Infections like mastitis
- Certain medications
- Muscular injuries
Frequently asked questions
Is breast pain caused by COVID19?
Breast pain is not a symptom of COVID19 or long COVID, but one may have muscular or respiratory pain that one may feel in the breasts. Breast pain is usually associated with the COVID19 vaccine. However, it should go away within a few days after taking the vaccine. If o e continues to have pain that does not improve, a doctor should be consulted.
Should one reschedule a mammogram after a COVID19 vaccine?
No, one should not reschedule a mammogram after the COVID19 vaccination but should inform the technician when and in which arm the vaccine was injected.