Covid-19 & Breast Cancer

Covid-19 may be on its way to becoming endemic but will continue to pose a greater risk to those who have underlying conditions. The Virginia Department of Health has put together a webpage and a few guides for people who might be at high risk of developing severe Covid-19. Below are those resources, including some information specific to breast cancer and breast health.

Covid-19 Vaccines

Being fully vaccinated against Covid-19 is the best way for anyone to prevent developing severe disease. The vaccines may not absolutely prevent Covid-19 illness, but vaccinations have been shown through multiple waves of disease to lower the risk of experiencing Covid symptoms and dramatically reduce the risk of hospitalization and death due to Covid-19.

At the writing of this page, the definition of “fully-vaccinated” in the United States is two doses of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. It is recommended that anyone over the age of 16 also receive a “booster” third dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, but it is strongly recommended for those 65 and older or those with pre-existing conditions (like cancer survivors). For some people, four doses of the vaccine is recommended. If you are currently undergoing cancer treatment or have an underlying health condition that affects your immune system, reach out to your doctor to see if you would benefit from four doses of the vaccine.

One note on the Covid-19 vaccines, as we mention in a previous blog, is that some people can experience swelling in lymph nodes in the underarm after receiving a vaccine. Because this side effect can cause confusion when receiving a mammogram (lymph node swelling under the arm can also sometimes indicate breast cancer), there has been a recommendation to get your mammogram before receiving a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine or to wait six weeks after receiving the vaccine before getting a mammogram.

A recent study determined that there is no need to wait to get a mammogram after a vaccine, so the best advice we have for you is to contact your imaging center and ask them what their recommendation is if you are planning on getting a vaccine and your mammogram around the same time.

Other Covid Prevention and Treatment

Besides vaccines, there are also some medicines that could reduce the risk of someone developing Covid-19 before they are exposed and medicines that can reduce the risk of Covid-19 after a person has already been exposed. There is also now a pill to treat Covid-19 and reduce the risk of severe disease. These medicines are in all short supply and currently only available for people at high risk for severe Covid-19, so if you think you might be at risk please talk to your doctor about the availability of these medicines.

For more information about Covid-19 prevention and treatment, check out this chart developed by VDH and flier about monoclonal antibodies, a Covid-19 treatment.

For more detailed information about who is at risk of severe Covid-19, visit this Virginia Department of Health website.