The best way to protect yourself against the coronavirus—before your routine cancer screening or any time—is to get vaccinated against the virus. These vaccines have been proven safe and effective and can help protect adults and children ages 5 years and older from getting sick or severely ill with COVID-19. (Note: Some people cannot get vaccinated or will experience limited protection from the vaccines due to medical conditions. Talk to your doctor about your specific circumstances.)
Even if you are fully vaccinated, wear a mask if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission. This can reduce your risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and possibly spreading it to others. You might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of the transmission. Your health care provider may require patients and staffs to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.
It’s ok to ask! It’s understandable to be nervous about visiting your doctor or dentist while the virus is still circulating. But rest assured that your health care providers are taking precautions to keep you and those around you as safe as possible. Talk to your provider’s office and ask what steps they are taking to limit risk of exposure. Some precautions may include:
Don’t know what screenings you need? Start here to find out what’s recommended for you based on your age and assigned sex at birth.
Remember, your health care providers want you to feel safe and comfortable during your visit! Check out the video below to see what our friends at UMass Memorial Health Care are doing to keep their patients safe.
Screening guidelines are never one-size-fits-all, even during a pandemic. When deciding when to get your routine screening back on the books, you should weigh the potential risk of exposure to the coronavirus against the potential risk of a late or missed cancer diagnosis. If you are immunocompromised (you have a weakened immune system) or are at high risk of complications from contracting the virus, it may make sense to wait. Call your health care provider for guidance.
Like all vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine can produce some side effects, including swollen lymph nodes under your arm (the swollen lymph nodes would be under the arm in which you received the injection). If you have a mammogram to screen for breast cancer soon after the injection, swollen lymph nodes could show up on the breast image and prompt concern and/or additional testing that would otherwise be unnecessary.
Do not postpone or cancel your routine mammogram due to this potential side effect without first discussing it with your health care provider. If you have a mammogram soon after you receive the COVID-19 vaccine, be sure to tell your doctor when and in which arm you received the injection.