Two days after receiving the second Pfizer vaccine, Julie Mazenko felt a ball the size of a golf ball in her armpit. “It was a bit painful and I touched and noticed it was full of fluid. Discovery Bay resident Mazenko said.
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Then she noticed a second in her neck and a third in the other arm. One of the thoughts that crossed her mind was breast cancer.
“I have a family history of breast cancer and I was a little worried,” Mazenko said.
Dr. Laura Esserman is the director of the Breast Care Center at the University of California at San Francisco and says Julie is not alone. They get an influx of calls from women mistaking swollen lymph nodes after the vaccine for signs of cancer.
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“I’m sure hundreds of thousands of women across the country will definitely be affected by this,” Dr. Esserman said.
Most people get their vaccine in the shoulder area and it turns out that we have between 20 and 40 lymph nodes in that area. But why does the vaccine trigger them?
“The lymph nodes when they’re swollen, if you have an infection, just do their job. In the case of a vaccine, they make the antibody for your body, whatever you want, ”Dr. Esserman said.
Light as a feather: “Have you noticed a difference between women who have swollen lymph nodes from the vaccine and swollen lymph nodes from cancer? “
Dr Esserman: “On the mammogram, they’ll just look bigger, so you can’t really tell. During an examination, usually, sometimes it is obviously cancer. It is more difficult and more obvious. “
The Society of Breast Imaging reported that 11.6% of patients who received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine had swollen lymph nodes after the first dose and 16% after the second dose. Women who received the Pfizer vaccine also experienced these side effects.
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“This is a phenomenon that we have noticed and we are following it,” said Dr. Bonnie Joe. Dr. Bonnie Joe is the chief of breast imaging at UCSF. She also notices a pattern in the pictures.
“It’s usually on the same side that the vaccine was used and usually they are higher. Thus, breast cancer lymph nodes will spread from the breast from lower levels to higher levels, ”Dr. Joe said.
According to these doctors, the swollen lymph nodes should disappear between 4 and 10 weeks. And here’s when you should be concerned.
“There’s no question that a breast lump is the concern. So any breast lump, focal symptom or if you have a bloody discharge, “said Dr Joe and added that if you are worried after getting a vaccine,” Better come in and play it safe and let us take a look and then we can tell you what to do next. ”
Dr Joe says they have seen this with other vaccines.
“We’re used to seeing this with other vaccines as well. It’s just that now so many people are getting COVID vaccinations, it has kind of increased, “Dr Joe said and added,” We just want people to know that this is a normal reaction and it doesn’t is not necessarily a sign of cancer. “
As for Julie, it’s been six days since her vaccine.
“Not too much of a drop yet,” said Julie Mazenko.
Oncologists and breast imaging experts advise women who have scheduled mammograms to have them before the vaccine or 4 to 8 weeks after their full vaccination in order to have a clear picture and avoid confusion.
Light as a feather: “If someone has breast cancer if they wait six to eight weeks, could it be bad for their health? “
Dr Esserman: “Six to eight weeks won’t make a difference one way or another. What we understand today about breast cancer is that it is not a disease, but of several different types and that some are all slow growing and some are growing. faster.
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