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COVID-19 vaccination timing is causing mammogram delays for some women

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Posted at 5:58 PM, Oct 06, 2021

HANCOCK COUNTY — A Hancock County woman was shocked to learn she needed to wait to get her mammogram because it was too soon after receiving her COVID-19 vaccine.

"October the first I just happened to get a note, an email that said, 'Hey, it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month' and I usually get a mammogram during that month just because it helps. It's a reminder,” Kelly Wilson, the mother of a WRTV employee said.

Wilson called her usual place to schedule a mammogram appointment.

"When I let the lady know that I was calling to schedule my yearly mammogram the first question was, 'Have you had your COVID-19 vaccine?'" Wilson recalled.

She had just received her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Wilson was told she should call back after her second shot of the vaccine and schedule her mammogram for four weeks later.

Wilson was shocked. As someone with a history of breast cancer in her family and a recent scare of her own, she did not feel it made sense to wait.

"Several years ago, I had to go in and get a biopsy done. It was non-cancerous so I was very thankful for that but it was still scary. So, I am very good about getting my mammograms. I take it very seriously. My grandmother had breast cancer and other relatives,” Wilson said.

Wilson will have to get her mammogram about two months later than she initially planned to. That’s 14 months after her last one.

"It's a very effective test. It's the best test we have for finding breast cancer early but if it is not used…does it work?” Susan Brown, a former oncology nurse with Susan G. Komen for more than two decades said.

Brown said these delays on top of some women skipping their mammogram altogether last year due to the pandemic, could impact women’s health.

"They could. Some breast cancers are very aggressive, and you can see the progression over a short period of time," Brown said. "Others are slow-growing and can be detected on a mammogram years before they are detectable clinically."

Hancock Health runs the imaging center Wilson contacted.

A representative informed WRTV Hancock Health does accept patients for mammograms whether or not they have been vaccinated for COVID-19. The organization did send out information from the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI), however, as a recommendation to not schedule a mammogram until four weeks post-injection if you've recently been vaccinated because of potential node involvement. There is a small percent of women who will have inflammation of the nodes, and according to SBI, it has shown up on mammograms and breast MRIs.

If patients do want to get a mammogram within four weeks after their shots, Hancock Health will absolutely conduct the mammogram and note it in the patient's chart so the doctor is aware, per recommendations from the Society of Breast Imaging.