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How far apart should you schedule a COVID-19 vaccine and annual mammogram?

Doctors warn if it's not planned carefully, common side effects from the vaccine could lead to alarming mammogram results.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Now that boosters for all three brands of the COVID-19 shots are approved for certain populations, there’s an important warning for women who may also be getting their annual mammogram around the same time.

Not scheduling them far enough apart could lead to incorrect and anxiety-inducing results.

Breast cancer awareness month is coming to an end, but doctors are stressing the importance of annual checks even when the pink ribbons aren’t as visible.

MORE NEWS: NC long-term care facility residents get booster shots

“Screening mammograms are important to get regularly and on time,” Dr. Kristina Shaffer, a breast surgical oncologist with Novant Health, said. “The reason for this being they’re the only imaging and modality that have been shown to improve survival from breast cancer.”

But with health officials pushing the need for COVID vaccines and now boosters, some careful planning is required. Some people will get swollen lymph nodes under their armpits after the vaccine, which is a normal immune response.

But the swelling could also be a rare sign of breast cancer, forcing doctors to take a closer look.

“Getting called back after a screening mammogram when you think everything is going to be fine can definitely be anxiety-provoking," Shaffer said. "And then you get called back, have to get more pictures taken, and then potentially even recommended a biopsy. And if you’re getting a COVID vaccine very close to your mammogram, it’s possible it could be swollen lymph nodes and then it opens kind of a can of worms.”

The Society of Breast Imaging recommends waiting about four to six weeks after the second dose or booster shot to get a mammogram.

“With thoughtful planning getting your flu vaccine, your covid vaccine, and breast cancer screening is possible and definitely important,” Shaffer said.

Swollen lymph nodes happen less often from the flu vaccine.

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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