Covid vaccine side effect could be confused with breast cancer, docs warn

A SIDE effect of the Covid vaccine could be mistaken for breast cancer, and doctors have warned women not to panic.

They said people may feel lumps around their armpits and chest area after getting a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

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The first symptom of breast cancer that most women notice is a lump in their breast or armpit area.

But if this appears after the vaccine, it is probably a side effect called axillary adenopathy, also known as swollen lymph nodes. 

Swollen lymph nodes can occur in your armpits as well as in your neck and groin.

They are usually a sign of fighting infection, which is why they may become swollen after a jab.

The vaccine triggers an immune response similar to real infection with the coronavirus.

Dr Holly Marshall, a breast radiologist with University Hospitals in Cleveland, told local news station Fox 8: "It’s actually a normal response that the body has to the vaccine.

"It means that the body is making antibodies to fight the Covid-19 infection." 

She said many patients have found swollen lymph nodes under the arm that they received the jab two to four days later.

The lymph nodes returned to their normal size two to four weeks later.

But Dr Marshall said anyone experiencing swollen lymph nodes for longer than that should see their doctor.

"We also see swollen lymph nodes in patients with breast cancer, so that’s the concern there", she said.

"So we are asking everybody who is having a mammogram if they had the Covid-19 vaccine, what dose, when, and what side?"

She reminded women of the importance of getting their mammograms, too. Women over the age of 50 are offered free screenings by the NHS.

Side effects of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine were studied closely with the help of thousands of trial participants.

Just 0.3 per cent of participants reported lymphadenopathy – when the lymph nodes swell.

It means that, of one million people to have the jab, around 3,000 will get swollen lymph nodes.

What side effects could happen after a Covid vaccine?

According to the NHS, most side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine are mild and should not last longer than a week, such as:

  • a sore arm where the needle went in
  • feeling tired
  • a headache
  • feeling achy
  • feeling or being sick

You can take painkillers, such as paracetamol, if you need to.

If you have a high temperature you may have coronavirus or another infection.

If your symptoms get worse or you are worried, call 111.

If you have a history of allergic reactions

The NHS says tell healthcare staff before you are vaccinated if you've ever had a serious allergic reaction.

You should not have the Covid-19 vaccine if you have ever had a serious allergic reaction (including anaphylaxis) to:

  • a previous dose of the same vaccine
  • any of the ingredients in the vaccine

The approved Covid-19 vaccines do not contain any animal products or egg and those who have food allergies are allowed to get a jab.

Serious allergic reactions are rare. If you do have a reaction to the vaccine, it usually happens in minutes. Staff giving the vaccine are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

The NHS says all vaccines are thoroughly tested to make sure they will not harm you or your child.

It often takes many years for a vaccine to make it through the trials and tests it needs to pass for approval.

But scientists have been working at speed to develop a Covid jab in under one year.

This has been possible because of huge funding, global collaboration, and because there was high transmission of the virus globally to test it.

Experts have said "no corners have been cut" in testing Covid vaccines.

Once a vaccine is being used in the UK it's also monitored for any rare side effects by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

"Lymphadenopathy, which generally resolved within 10 days, is likely to have resulted from a robust vaccine-elicited immune response", the paper results reported.

The most common side effects from a Pfizer jab were injection site reactions (84 per cent), fatigue (63 per cent) and headache (55 per cent).

People also frequently reported muscle pain (38 per cent), chills (32 per cent), joint pain (24 per cent) and a fever (14 per cent), according to an FDA summary.

Side effects are more commonly experienced in those between the ages of 18 and 55. 

And a study yesterday revealed that side effects could be more common in people who have already had Covid because their immune reaction is stronger.

As the vaccines are rolled out to millions more people, the extent to which side effects occur will become clearer.

For example, it has become evident that people with allergies to the vaccine ingredients should avoid taking it.

Recently patients have reported of "Covid arm" – a rash on the arm injected with Moderna's vaccine.

Scientists have stressed that the emergence of new side effects is to be expected, and not a concern.

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