COVID-19 vaccine side effect mirrors breast cancer symptom, doctors say not to panic

Covid Vaccine Protocol
Posted at 12:23 PM, Feb 01, 2021

CLEVELAND — Aubrey Lewis has been a nurse at University Hospitals for four years, and for nearly the last year of that time, her work has been dedicated to fighting COVID-19.

“I work with COVID-19 patients on a daily basis,” she said.

She received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine around Jan. 20.

“When I got my vaccine, initially, I did not have any side effects at all,” she said.

But after a few days, she noticed swelling in one of her lymph nodes.

“I felt under my armpit to see if there was anything there and I felt a lump. It was kind of hard, but still mobile, it moved around,” she said.

As a nurse, it made her nervous.

“I was like, ’that’s a weird spot to have a tender lymph node,’ but as soon as I put two and two together—that I had just got the COVID vaccine on that side—I figured it was related to that,” she said.

But she did look it up.

“I did a little bit of research and it seemed like a lot of women had thought that the swollen lymph node in their axillary area, which is like their armpit area, they thought it was a breast cancer or like a breast malignancy," she said.

Dr. Holly Marshall with University Hospitals Radiology and Breast Imaging Department, said as more and more people are getting vaccinated, they’re getting more calls from women concerned that their swollen lymph nodes are a sign of breast cancer.

“We are asking everybody who is having a screening mammogram if they’ve received the COVID vaccine and, if so, what side and when the date was,” Marshall said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes about 11% of people who receive either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine will experience swollen lymph nodes after their first dose and that goes up to 16% after the second dose.

“It means that you’re making antibodies to fight infections, so later on if your body does see a COVID-19 virus, then you’ll be able to fight the infection,” Marshall said.

The swollen lymph nodes can appear anywhere from two to four days after you receive the shot.

“Wait a few weeks and if there’s no change then come in and we will evaluate it,” Marshall said.

Lewis said no matter the side effects, she is eager to receive her second dose.

“Going into the health care field, I knew that there would be times like this, to set the pace for everyone else, so I don’t have hesitation to get the second dose,” she said.

Marshall said it’s important to note that doctors do not suggest that women delay their annual mammogram screening and said those screenings should start when they’re 40 years old.

This story was originally published by Jessie Schultz at WEWS.