Syracuse, New York – At the beginning of this year, the medical imaging department of Claus Hospital began to notice that patients had enlarged lymph nodes in the axilla during routine breast examinations.
Usually, this is a cause for concern.
Dr. David Wang, Director of Breast Imaging Medicine at Crouse, said: “Lymph node enlargement may be a sign of cancer.”
After similar reports circulated among other radiologists, Crouse technicians began to ask the patient: “Do you have the Covid-19 vaccine recently? Which arm?”
Lymph node enlargement proved to be a relatively common side effect of the Covid vaccine, such as fever, chills and fatigue. Lymph node enlargement is not the first stop for lymph node metastasis of cancer cells, but it indicates that the lymphatic system is acting as a part of the body’s immune arsenal, mobilizing to fight the new coronavirus.
Wang said: “This is indeed a typical reaction.” “The side that was hit was the side with swollen lymph nodes. The other side looked normal.”
Wang and his employees even saw this in person: All five members of the imaging department found that the lymph nodes were slightly swollen after being vaccinated, and they were always under the injected arm.
Wang said that after being vaccinated for the second time with the Moderna vaccine about eight weeks ago, he has grown in size. He said that the node has been shrinking.
He said this reaction is common in both men and women, and can be found not only in mammograms and breast ultrasound examinations, but also in MRI and CT scans. The expansion may vary. Lymph nodes are usually about a quarter to half an inch long, but they may double in size when fighting infections or responding to vaccines.
Crouse added a section to its paperwork asking whether the patient has been vaccinated against Covid-19 and on which arm. If lymph nodes are found to be swollen, this can help reduce the patient’s anxiety and reduce the need for further examination. If the lymph nodes are swollen, it may indicate cancer, which is very common.
The Breast Imaging Society recommends that women be tested before receiving the vaccine, or wait four weeks after the final dose. (Pfizer and Moderna need two shots; Johnson and Johnson only has one shot.)
Crouse advises women to keep a regular diet and not delay vaccines or mammograms.
Wang said: “If you can get a mammogram before getting the vaccine, there is no problem, but if you do get the vaccine, you can still have a mammogram, and we will take it into consideration. We don’t want to prevent people from doing normal an examination.”
Wang said that if the patient has large lymph nodes near the nearest vaccine injection site, it is recommended that they be monitored for eight weeks. Wang said that if it does not disappear or still looks abnormal, then more testing may be needed.
He said: “If we were completely worried that this might not be a response to the vaccine, then we would say,’Let’s do another check in eight weeks.'”
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