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Health screenings delayed by pandemic; doctors urging patients to reschedule

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BATON ROUGE - Many important health screenings for women were delayed during the height of the pandemic. Now doctors say there's a new hurdle with trying to get women to schedule their next mammogram.

Some patients are reportedly developing swollen lymph nodes after a COVID-19 vaccination. That is raising questions about getting mammograms.

"Getting the vaccine should not at all limit coming in for that screening exam. It would be much worse that we delay the detection, and early detection is so important in breast cancer," said Dr. Wendy Holden-Parker with Louisiana Women's Healthcare.

Eileen Rome is living proof that early detection of breast cancer saves lives. She almost put off her mammogram due to her busy lifestyle.

"I was wanting to push it back, but only for a couple of weeks. When I found out how long it was going to pushed back, I said no I'm going to make this work," said Rome.

Delayed appointments have Dr. Holden-Parker and others at Louisiana Women's Healthcare worried as they work to get patients back on the books. She says doctor's offices are safer than ever with required masks and social distancing.

"The pandemic has caused women to have such a fear to come to their health care providers, that it's potentially delaying the diagnoses and the getting of a regular screening mammogram," Dr. Holden-Parker said.

One area of concern that may cause an additional delay is receiving a recent vaccination. The CDC says the vaccine can cause swollen lymph nodes in the underarm where you got the shot but it's just a normal response to the vaccine as your body builds antibodies.

"What everyone is so worried about is the vaccine causes an immune response usually in the arm that you've gotten your shot in," Dr. Holden-Parker said.

Arm swelling could lead to an abnormal mammogram that may look like cancer. Experts say you can get a mammogram before you get the vaccine or wait four to six weeks after the shot.

Doctor Holden-Parker says if you are at higher risk for breast cancer, unsure of your risk, or are already due for your mammogram, you should speak with your gynecologist to tailor a plan for you based on a physical exam and your personal and family history.

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