March 1, 2021

go see your doctor

One of the effects of the pandemic over the past year is that people stopped going to the doctor. Most physicians have seen many less patients in the past 12 months because of people’s fear of being exposed to COVID-19 if they went to a medical facility. People cancelled and postponed their annual exams and preventive care, such as mammograms and other screenings. People even stopped going to Emergency Rooms, even with warning signs, out of fear of exposure. These postponements probably led to deaths from heart disease and strokes, driving up the rate of excess deaths, not caused directly by COVID-19, but indirectly, by not receiving care due to the pandemic. Many physicians and other providers are now worried about the health care costs of postponing those screenings and follow ups, fearing an increased rate of diagnosing later stage breast and colon cancers, among other things.

Now that people are getting their vaccines, patients are starting to get scheduled for the things they have postponed. Which is good, except that the vaccine can cause enlarged lymph nodes on the same side as the shot. If the mammogram is done too close to the vaccine those swollen nodes can cause concern and necessitate call backs for further testing. This has happened enough since we increased vaccines that new recommendations have come out. The best is to postpone the mammogram for 6 weeks after the shot to allow time for the swelling to resolve. This can help avoid anxiety and worry and avoid extra testing. The swelling from the vaccine does resolve within a few weeks.

And I like hearing about the “geek” factor: people who wear glasses most of the day are far less likely to catch COVID-19, possibly because they touch their eyes less frequently. Myopia is good for something after all, besides the opportunity to wear cool glasses.

In case you are wondering, here is a good explanation of the difference between the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the mRNA vaccines. Another site to answer all of your vaccine questions is at the New England Journal of Medicine.

And finally more reasons to consider the vaccine: one is that it can help protect you and reduce the spread if the new variants, which are of increasing concern. Another is that the vaccine is effective at reducing viral load. Even if a vaccine doesn't prevent all infections, having a low viral load, or the amount of virus being produced by your body, will decrease your infectiousness to others. That is another good reason to get vaccinated.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, go see your doctor and think about waiting 6 weeks on that mammogram.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.