Don't Do This Until a Month After Your COVID Vaccine, Experts Warn

New guidelines suggest waiting to do this for at least four to six weeks after your shot.

While the COVID vaccine has been proven to be safe, it doesn't come without warnings: You shouldn't take over-the-counter painkillers before getting the shot, and you shouldn't share a photo of your vaccination card after. Now, experts are warning people to avoid another routine activity for at least a month after getting the vaccine. Keep reading to find out what you should hold off doing post-vaccination, and for things you can do, Dr. Fauci Just Confirmed You Can Do This After Getting Vaccinated.

The vaccine can mimic breast cancer signs during a mammogram, so don't get one right away.

Woman with armpit pain

The Society of Breast Imaging just released a statement saying people who recently got a COVID vaccine may present axillary [in the armpit] lymph node swelling, which could mimic a sign of breast cancer. Since the axillary lymph nodes are near the outer breast, the sight of them swollen during a breast exam could easily raise concern. The statement detailed how professionals should document such an occurrence, and suggested people wait to schedule their appointment to prevent unnecessary worry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), axillary lymph node swelling was found in both men and women during the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine trials. Swollen lymph nodes are a common immune response that occurs with various vaccines, including the flu vaccine, hepatitis vaccines, polio vaccine, and the tetanus vaccine, according to Forbes.

"The lymph system is your drainage system, and they respond to inflammation," explained hormone expert and founder of Revitalize Medical Group Tara Scott, MD. "Your underarm (or axillary lymph nodes) nodes are the ones closest to the arm—and to the breast—so they would be visible on a mammogram." And for more vaccine reactions to be aware of, The CDC Says These 3 Side Effects Mean Your Vaccine Is Working.

Experts say to wait at least a month between getting your shot and getting a mammogram.

Doctor looking at a mammogram

"The recommendation is to wait at least one month after the second shot and to not get the mammogram in between shots," Scott said. In its statement, the Society of Breast Imaging also said that it would be wise to schedule a mammogram in advance of your vaccine. Doing this could also help put your mind at ease if a lump does form near your armpit after receiving the shot.

If you can't get a mammogram appointment before your vaccine, the Society of Breast Imaging suggests waiting "four to six weeks following the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccination." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

However, don't delay your mammogram if you have reasons to be concerned.

Woman checking her armpit

If you have a reason for concern or want to get something checked as soon as possible, don't delay your test. Jeffrey Hawley, MD, breast imaging radiologist at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, said patients "shouldn't put off getting their mammograms or COVID-19 vaccine—especially if it leads to a long delay or not getting screened at all."

If you get a mammogram, just keep in mind that your COVID vaccine could impact the findings and alert your doctor that you recently got the shot. And for more on when you'll be able to get the vaccine, Biden Says This Is When You'll Easily Be Able to Get a Vaccine Appointment.

If a test does come up with a swollen axillary lymph node, don't jump to conclusions.

Woman talking with her doctor

A mammogram isn't the only test that can catch a swollen axillary lymph node. "We are seeing unilateral axillary adenopathy on breast imaging, [such as] mammogram, ultrasound, and breast MRI after COVID-19 vaccinations are administered," Sunny Mitchell, MD, medical director of breast and women's services and director of breast surgery at Montefiore Nyack Hospital, told Forbes. "This is presenting in individuals with a history of breast cancer as well as no history of breast cancer." Mitchell said breast radiologists are using short-term follow-ups and repeated imaging to assess the situation before recommending a biopsy, in case the lump is related to the COVID vaccine.

Rebecca Gamms, MD, breast radiologist at Hackensack Radiology Group/Hackensack University Medical Center, told Forbes they are "recommending a follow-up exam in 2-3 months to allow for the lymph nodes to return to normal." Additionally, to prevent this situation from occurring frequently, Gamms said they're adhering to the Society of Breast Imaging's recommendation to schedule mammograms either before or four to six weeks after a COVID vaccine. And for more on vaccine availability, This Is Who Can Get the Leftover Vaccine at Walgreens, CVS, & Walmart.

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