Harmless side effect from the COVID vaccine could prompt irregular breast scan

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 6:54 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As coronavirus vaccinations increase, more women are being notified of abnormal mammograms and breast ultrasounds.

It’s due to a harmless side effect from the shot.

“It’s abnormal because of the lymph nodes, and it’s usually the side that you got the vaccine,” said Maui District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang.

Kihei resident, Linda Griffith, gets a mammogram every year. However, her dense breast tissue makes it harder to spot potential cancer. So, she gets an ultrasound every six months to see things more clearly.

“This time it said, ‘Abnormal. Contact your physician or health care provider as soon as possible.’ I immediately got slightly nauseated,” said Griffith.

Health experts say some women are experiencing a harmless immune response after getting vaccinated that causes enlargement of the lymph nodes which can look suspicious on a breast image.

Griffith says she was never notified of this potential side effect.

“The stress and the anxiety are horrendous. Why haven’t we been told this,” she said.

Dr. Pang said the connection between vaccination and suspicious mammograms didn’t become clear until more people got the shot.

“When they did the formal trials, 30,000 placebo, 30,000 vaccines, that wasn’t quite enough to show this. But now that we’ve done 100 million plus, just Moderna, that’s enough to show that. So, it is coming out now,” Dr. Pang said.

Pang said women who get abnormal scan results after a vaccination should not just blame the vaccine. He said any abnormal breast imagery must be taken seriously.

“We would always rather err on the side of caution,” he said.

The CDC recommends getting mammograms before being vaccinated or waiting four to six weeks after getting the vaccine.

Griffith just wants women to be aware.

“We need to get the word out,” she said.

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