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. It was first detected in China in late 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 on 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. So, 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 avoid being exposed to COVID-19, the CDC recommends you:

  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to you.
  • Wear a face mask made with 2 or more layers of cloth in public (for example, when you go to the grocery store). This is to protect other people in case you are infected, and offers some protection for you. Don’t put a face mask on a child younger than 2. After removing your face mask, put it in the washing machine and wash your hands.
  • Keep at least 6 feet of space between yourself and others outside of your home.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after being in a public place and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 50 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick. Cover your cough with your elbow or sleeve. Sneeze into a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

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

Find more information on cloth face masks on the CDC website.

This is a hard time for everyone. 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 our 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 during these uncertain times.

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 [7]. The COVID-19 vaccine is only given to people 16 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 [7]. You don’t want to confuse side effects of the surgery versus side effects of the vaccine. Ask your surgeon when it’s best to get the vaccine.

Priority for vaccines (when different groups of people are eligible to get the vaccine) varies from state to state. Contact your state or local health department for information on when you will be able to get 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 [8].

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. [8].

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 [9-10]. 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.

After you’re fully vaccinated

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

Once you’re fully vaccinated, the CDC says it’s OK to:

  • Visit other fully vaccinated people indoors (in non-health care settings) without wearing face masks or social distancing
  • Visit some people who have not had the vaccine, as long as they are from a single household and they are at low risk for severe illness from COVID-19, without wearing face masks or social distancing.

Once you’re fully vaccinated, you don’t need to quarantine or get tested for COVID-19 if you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19, as long as you don’t have symptoms.

If you’re fully vaccinated, continue to follow CDC guidelines, such as:

  • Wear a face mask and practice social distancing when you’re in public.
  • Wear a face mask, practice social distancing and take other precautions if you visit someone who is at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (or someone who has an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk). People at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 include pregnant women.
  • Wear a face mask, practice social distancing and take other precautions if you visit unvaccinated people from more than one household.
  • Avoid in-person gatherings, unless they are small.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms.
  • Continue to follow any measures your employer has in place to protect workers from COVID-19.
  • Follow CDC and health department travel guidelines.

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).

Other organizations may offer financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, CancerCare has financial assistance for people getting cancer treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. You don’t need a COVID-19 diagnosis to apply. Call 1-800-813-4673 or visit www.cancercare.org/coronavirus to learn more.

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

Find more financial assistance resources.

Due to limits on resources and staff and to minimize exposure to COVID-19, many hospitals and imaging centers postponed screening mammograms for some women. Now, most places are retuning to normal. If your mammogram was postponed and you haven’t done so already, call to make an appointment.

Hospitals and imaging centers are taking many precautions to ensure people are safe. Many places 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.

If your mammogram was postponed

If you’re at average risk and have no signs of breast cancer and have had a mammogram in the past year or so, try not to worry if your mammogram was postponed for a short period of time. However, it’s important to reschedule your mammogram as soon as possible and not further delay your screening.

Study findings show for women 50-74, the benefits of mammography screening every year are similar to the benefits of mammography screening every 2 years [1]. In fact, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends mammography screening every 2 years for women ages 50-74 [1]. The American Cancer Society recommends mammography every 2 years for women, starting at 55 [2].

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 [9-10]. 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.

It’s OK to go see your doctor, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals and doctor offices are taking many precautions to ensure patients are safe.

Hospitals are not postponing follow-up tests for people with signs or symptoms of breast cancer. These tests are considered urgent.

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.

Many clinical trials for breast cancer treatment are continuing. If you’re in a clinical trial, there may be some changes to reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19. For example, you may have fewer in-person doctor visits.

Hospitals may have limited staff and resources during the pandemic. So, individual hospitals made decisions about the clinical trials they conduct. Some hospitals temporarily put enrollment of new participants in clinical trials on hold.

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.

Small gatherings, especially indoors, can spread COVID-19.

According to the CDC, the safest way to gather is at home with the people you live with or getting together virtually (over the phone or computer).

If you have a weakened immune system from breast cancer treatment (which puts you at an increased risk of getting sick from COVID-19), the CDC recommends avoiding in-person gatherings with people who don’t live in your home.

Check your local and state government websites for the latest information on size restrictions for gatherings and other safety guidelines.

Find more information from the CDC on small gatherings.

If you’re fully vaccinated for COVID-19

The CDC has relaxed some guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Learn about visiting friends and loved ones after you’re fully vaccinated.

What can I do to reduce stress?

This is 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®’s Breast Care Helpline:
1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636)

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. You can also email the helpline at helpline@komen.org.

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.
  • Our online and telephone support groups provide a safe place for all to discuss the challenges of breast cancer, get information and exchange support. To learn more about upcoming group opportunities, call the Komen Breast Cancer Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email 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. 

Find more support resources.

References

  1. Dietz JR, Moran MS, Isakoff SJ, et al. Recommendations for prioritization, treatment, and triage of breast cancer patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. the COVID-19 pandemic breast cancer consortium. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 181(3):487-497, 2020.
  2. Correa C, McGale P, Taylor C, Wang Y, et al. for the Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group (EBCTCG). Overview of the randomized trials of radiotherapy in ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast. J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr. 2010(41):162-77, 2010.
  3. Goodwin A, Parker S, Ghersi D, Wilcken N. Post-operative radiotherapy for ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 11:CD000563, 2013.
  4. National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). NCCN Clinical practice guidelines in oncology: Breast cancer V.1.2021. http://www.nccn.org/, 2021.
  5. Siu AL on behalf of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for breast cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 164(4):279-96, 2016.
  6. American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society recommendations for the early detection of breast cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/american-cancer-society-recommendations-for-the-early-detection-of-breast-cancer.html, 2020.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Recommendations of the NCCN COVID-19 Vaccination Advisory Committee. https://www.nccn.org/covid-19/pdf/COVID-19_Vaccination_Guidance_V2.0.pdf, 2021.

Updated March 26, 2021

TOOLS & RESOURCES

Need Help or More Information?

1-877 GO KOMEN
(1-877-465-6636)

In Your Own Words

What support have you found especially helpful?

Share Your Story or Read Others