Researchers at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, USA, state that doctors have noticed a situation whereby results of mammograms are showing swollen lymph nodes under the arm.
Ordinarily, this can be indicative of breast cancer; but a breast cancer specialist with Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Laura Dean, explains why some people experience swollen lymph nodes after COVID-19 vaccination.
According to her, it simply means your body is responding to the immunisation as it should – and it’s not unusual.
“We know that lymph node swelling can be a common reaction, or side effect, to any vaccine – especially the flu vaccine or the shingles vaccine that we’ve had lots of experience with over the years,” she said. “And that seems to be especially true following the COVID vaccine.”
Dr. Dean said a small number of patients have reported swollen lymph nodes under the arm two-to-four days after vaccination, on average; noting that the swelling is almost always on the same side where they were vaccinated, and typically returns to normal about four weeks later.
She added that this is a common response to vaccination, in general.
According to The New York Times, Moderna’s study showed that 11.6 percent of patients reported swollen lymph nodes after the first dose, and 16 percent reported the symptom after the second dose. Pfizer-BioNTech recipients reported lower incidences, with only 0.3 percent of people saying they experienced swollen lymph nodes. It was a recognised side effect in large trials of both vaccines.
However, lymph node swelling is sometimes associated with cancer, causing some people to worry.
“Any time you find lumps or bumps that are concerning, talk it through with your health care provider for peace of mind and next steps.
“Your doctor may be able to reassure you. They may send you for imaging studies, such as an ultrasound of your lymph nodes up under your arm and then we can just kind of follow you and make sure that everything is responding as we would expect in a typical vaccine reaction,” Dean counselled.
If you happen to have a routine mammogram scheduled around the time of your COVID-19 vaccine, the physician encourages women to see it through and simply let your medical team know you’ve recently been vaccinated.
She said mammograms can be lifesaving and it’s important to get the screening when you’re due.
Also speaking on the issue, board-certified gynaecologist Kelly Culwell, told online portal Refinery29 that swollen lymph nodes are a common response by the body.
“Swollen lymph nodes can be a response to many different vaccines, including the COVID vaccine. It is a sign of your immune system kicking into gear to produce antibodies in response to the vaccine,” Culwell said.
Experts say lymph nodes play a vital role in our body’s ability to fight off bacteria and viruses.
“They trap and filter viruses, bacteria, and other causes of illness before they can infect other parts of your body.
The human body has lymph nodes in multiple areas including the neck, armpits, and the groin, which is all part of a larger immune system response — exactly what vaccines, COVID-19 and otherwise, try to elicit.
According to Mayo Clinic, swollen lymph nodes are rarely a sign that you may have cancer.
“Any vaccine that produces a robust immune response may cause temporary swelling of the nodes. In my opinion, it has not been mentioned so much since we have not performed vaccines on this scale ever in history. With so many people getting vaccinated, you will hear of more effects all at once,” Nicole Williams, MD, gynaecologic surgeon and founder of The Gynaecology Institute of Chicago, said.
She explains that because the vaccine is injected into the upper arm, the lymph nodes nearest the injection site commonly swell, but since they are the nodes closer to the breasts, it makes sense that doctors would want to check it out further.
The problem is that this side effect isn’t listed on the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention website: The only ones listed are pain, swelling, and redness in the arm where you received the vaccine, as well as fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea.
“As more people get vaccinated, it’s important to allay fears and avoid unnecessary testing or treatment for conditions that should quickly resolve,” said an internal medicine physician and director of population health for Yale Medicine, Dr. Brita Roy.
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