The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and breast cancer

This page has information about coronavirus (COVID-19) for people with breast cancer and their families. 

For general information on COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

For more information on COVID-19 for people with cancer, visit the American Society of Clinical Oncology website.

What is COVID-19?

A coronavirus causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

Most cases of COVID-19 are mild. However, some cases are severe and can lead to death.

For the latest information on COVID-19, visit the CDC website.

Am I at risk of getting COVID-19?

People who are older or who have other health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, are at greater risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.

If you have breast cancer and are being treated with chemotherapy or immunotherapy, or you have metastatic breast cancer, your immune system may be weakened. This means you have an increased risk of getting sick from COVID-19.

Rates of COVID-19 are not the same everywhere and can change rapidly. Local and state government safety guidelines vary and can change often. Check the CDC website, and your local and state public health department websites, for the latest information.

What are the signs and symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

These signs and symptoms tend to appear 2-14 days after exposure to COVID-19. However, a person may be contagious before symptoms appear.

If you have signs or symptoms, have been in contact with someone who’s been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have questions about testing for COVID-19, call your doctor.

For more information on the symptoms of COVID-19 and when to seek immediate medical attention for symptoms, visit the CDC website.

What can I do to protect myself and my family?

To slow the spread of COVID-19, the CDC recommends you:

  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a household cleaning spray or wipe.

If you’re fully vaccinated, the CDC has loosened guidelines on some COVID-19 precautions, such as wearing a face mask.

If you’re not fully vaccinated, continue to wear a face mask that covers your nose and mouth in public and keep at least 6 feet of space between yourself and others outside of your home.

Find more information and guidance from the CDC.

For additional information about COVID-19 for people with cancer, visit the American Society of Clinical Oncology website.

Many breast cancer organizations offer social support services online and by telephone.

If you’re feeling scared or alone, or just need to talk, please reach out to Komen by contacting the Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or helpline@komen.org. Our trained and caring helpline staff can provide information, social support and help with coping strategies to ease anxiety or concerns.

Find more Komen support resources below.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends all breast cancer patients, their caregivers and household family members get the COVID-19 vaccine [1]. The COVID-19 vaccine is available to people 12 years of age and older.

If you’re having breast surgery (or other surgery), don’t get the vaccine right before or right after your surgery [1]. You don’t want to confuse side effects of the surgery with side effects of the vaccine. Ask your surgeon when it’s best to get the vaccine.

Contact your state or local health department for information getting the vaccine.

Caution for those who’ve had an allergic reaction to some medications in the past

If you’ve had an allergic reaction in the past to a vaccine, an IV (by vein) medication or medication given by injection, talk with your health care provider before getting the COVID-19 vaccine [2].

Having a severe allergic reaction in the past may put you at risk for having a severe allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccines currently FDA-approved for use in the U.S. [2].

Find more information about the COVID-19 vaccine on the CDC website.

COVID-19 vaccine and the timing of mammography screening

The FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines may cause temporary swelling in the lymph nodes in the underarm area. These enlarged lymph nodes can impact the results of a screening mammogram. If possible, try not to get your mammogram right after you get your COVID-19 vaccine.

The Society of Breast Imaging and NCCN recommend scheduling your routine screening mammogram before your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or 4-6 weeks after your second dose, as long as this doesn’t delay your mammogram too much [3-4]. If you can’t easily schedule your mammogram around your vaccination, it’s important not to delay your screening.

Also, don’t delay a diagnostic (follow-up) mammogram to check an abnormal finding on a screening mammogram, or a lump or other change in your breast.

Read our statement on COVID-19 vaccines and mammography.

When are you fully vaccinated for COVID-19?

You’re fully vaccinated for COVID-19 when:

  • It’s been at least 2 weeks since you got the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine

OR

  • It’s been at least 2 weeks since you got the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

What can you do once you’re fully vaccinated for COVID-19?

The CDC has loosened some COVID-19 precautions for people who are fully vaccinated.

Even after you’re fully vaccinated, continue to follow the local laws related to COVID-19 in your area, and the guidance businesses and workplaces have in place to protect people from COVID-19. Continue to get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms.

Find detailed information and guidance from the CDC.

What about people on chemotherapy or immunotherapy, or who have metastatic breast cancer?

If you’re on chemotherapy or immunotherapy, or you have metastatic breast cancer, your immune system may be weakened. Even after you’re fully vaccinated, it’s best to talk with your doctor about how to prevent COVID-19.

The CDC recommends everyone get a 3rd dose of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine after the initial 2 doses.

The CDC recommends:

  • People with a weakened immune system (moderately to severely immunocompromised) should get a 3rd dose as soon as 28 days after their 2nd dose (beginning now). If you have breast cancer and are being treated with chemotherapy or immunotherapy, or you have metastatic breast cancer, your immune system may be weakened.
  • Everyone else should get a 3rd dose 8 months after their 2nd dose, when it is FDA-approved (expected late September).

Guidelines for people who got the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine are expected this fall.

Learn more about the CDC recommendations for an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for people with weakened immune systems.

Learn more about the CDC recommendations for COVID-19 booster shots for vaccinated people.

The flu vaccine protects against the 3-4 viruses most likely to be common each flu season.

The CDC recommends everyone aged 6 months or older, including people with breast cancer and their caregivers, get a flu shot every year.

If you are in treatment for breast cancer, get the flu vaccine as a shot rather than a nasal spray.

Find more information about the flu for people with breast cancer on the CDC website.

Some in-person doctor appointments may be changed to phone or video consults. We’ve created a simple checklist with some great tips to help you prepare for a successful visit and a podcast to help you get the most out of your visit.

Some doctors’ offices have made changes to allow for social distancing. For example, they have spread out appointments so only a few people are in the waiting area at the same time.

Many places are limiting the number people you can bring with you to a doctor’s appointment. This is to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Call your doctor or hospital, or check the website for their current policies. Don’t bring someone with you who has a fever or cough.

If you have a fever, cough or other symptoms, let your doctor know before you go to your appointment.

Many people are out of work or facing other financial hardship during the pandemic.

Komen Treatment Assistance Program

Susan G. Komen® created the Komen Treatment Assistance Program to help those struggling with the costs of breast cancer treatment by providing financial assistance to eligible individuals.

Funding is available for eligible individuals of any age undergoing breast cancer treatment, at any stage of the disease. To learn more about this program and other helpful resources, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email helpline@komen.org.

Other organizations may also offer financial assistance.

Find information on how to maintain health insurance coverage after a job loss.

Find more financial assistance resources.

If your mammogram was postponed last year and you haven’t done so already, call to make an appointment. It’s important to reschedule your mammogram as soon as possible and not further delay your screening.

Hospitals and imaging centers are taking many precautions to ensure people are safe. Many places have made changes to allow for social distancing.

If you have any warning signs of breast cancer of breast cancer or notice any changes in your breast or underarm area, call your doctor.

Watch our In Case You Missed It video blog on delays in mammography screening during the pandemic.

COVID-19 vaccine and the timing of mammography screening

The FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines may cause temporary swelling in the lymph nodes in the underarm area. These enlarged lymph nodes can impact the results of a screening mammogram. If possible, try not to get your mammogram right after you get your COVID-19 vaccine.

The Society of Breast Imaging and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommend scheduling your routine screening mammogram before your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or 4-6 weeks after your second dose, as long as this doesn’t delay your mammogram too much [3-4]. If you can’t easily schedule your mammogram around your vaccination, it’s important not to delay your screening.

Also, don’t delay a diagnostic (follow-up) mammogram to check an abnormal finding on a screening mammogram, or a lump or other change in your breast.

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine for people with breast cancer.

Read our statement on COVID-19 vaccines and mammography.

If you have questions about coronavirus (COVID-19) and breast cancer, visit the American Society of Clinical Oncology website.

If you have any warning signs of breast cancer or notice any changes in your breast or underarm area, don’t put off seeing your doctor. A breast lump or other change needs to be checked.

Hospitals and doctor offices are taking many precautions to ensure patients are safe.

Learn more about warning signs of breast cancer.

Learn more about what to do if you find a lump.

Learn about follow-up tests and diagnosis.

Hospitals may have had limited staff and resources during the pandemic. Some hospitals may have temporarily put enrollment of new participants in clinical trials on hold.

If you’re in a clinical trial now, you may notice some changes to reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19. For example, you may have fewer in-person doctor visits.

If you have metastatic breast cancer and have exhausted treatment options, including clinical trials, you may be able to try an investigational drug through the FDA’s Expanded Access program. This is also known as compassionate use. Learn more about this program.

What can I do to reduce stress?

This may still be a stressful time. To reduce stress, the CDC recommends:

  • Taking breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories about COVID-19, including social media.
  • Taking care of yourself. Try taking deep breaths, stretching or meditating. Try to eat healthy meals, get some exercise, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Making time to do things you enjoy, such as taking a walk, gardening, knitting, reading a book or cooking.
  • Talking with others about your concerns and how you’re feeling. Call, FaceTime or Skype with family and friends.

Susan G. Komen® Support Resources

  • Our Breast Care Helpline can provide information, social support and help with coping strategies related to anxiety or concerns during these uncertain times. Calls to the helpline are answered by a trained and caring staff member in English or Spanish, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET. Call 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email the helpline at helpline@komen.org.
  • We offer an online support community through our closed Facebook Group – Komen Breast Cancer group. The Facebook group provides a place where those with a connection to breast cancer can discuss each other’s experiences and build strong relationships to provide support to each other. Visit Facebook and search for “Komen Breast Cancer group” to request to join the closed group.
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information.

Find more support resources.

References

  1. National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). NCCN: Cancer and COVID-19 vaccination, version 1.0. https://www.nccn.org/covid-19/pdf/COVID-19_Vaccination_Guidance_V1.0.pdf, 2021.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 vaccines and allergic reactions. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/allergic-reaction.html, 2021.
  3. Society of Breast Imaging. SBI recommendations for the management of axillary adenopathy in patients with recent COVID-19 vaccination. https://www.sbi-online.org/Portals/0/Position%20Statements/2021/SBI-recommendations-for-managing-axillary-adenopathy-post-COVID-vaccination.pdf, 2021.
  4. National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Recommendations of the NCCN COVID-19 Vaccination Advisory Committee. https://www.nccn.org/covid-19, 2021.

Updated August 19, 2021

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