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Hypermetabolic Axillary Lymph Nodes Associated with COVID-19 Vaccination in Breast Cancer Management


  • Cengiz Taşçı
  • Ahmet Dirican
  • Ethem Murat Sözbilen
  • Fatma Seher Pehlivan
  • Selim Serter

Received Date: 22.09.2022 Accepted Date: 22.01.2023 Mol Imaging Radionucl Ther 2023;32(2):181-185 PMID: 37337878

A 42-year-old female patient diagnosed with invasive ductal breast ca underwent 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography/ computed tomography (PET/CT) scan for staging, 1.5 cm diameter hypermetabolic lesion was observed in the lower inner quadrant of the right breast that was compatible with primary tumor [maximum standardized uptake value (SUVmax): 10.5]. No pathological 18F-FDG uptake was observed in lymph nodes whose fatty hilum was seen in the right axilla. However, in the left axilla and left deep axilla, hypermetabolic lymph nodes with a maksimum diameter of 19 mm and fatty hilum were observed (SUVmax: 8.0). In a detailed CT evaluation, these lymph nodes have thicker walls than the ones in the right axilla. The patient was questioned again and coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) vaccination history (with BNT162b2, COVID-19 mRNA vaccine) was determined that was administrated to the left arm 5 days ago. Tru-cut biopsy was performed from the left aksillary lymph nodes and proved to be reactive lymphoid tissue and there was no primary or metastatic tumor in these axillary lymph node tissues. The patient was given neoadjuvant chemotherapy 4.5 months after the first 18F-FDG PET/CT, and the second was performed for the treatment response evaluation. Significant regression was determined from the findings. The patient underwent right total mastechtomy. She was being followed up with adjuvant chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In conclusion, hypermetabolic lymph nodes in the axillas should be interrogated for vaccination in patients with breast cancer. Hypermetabolic lymph nodes observed on the same side of the vaccinated arm in the 18F-FDG PET/CT scan may be related to vaccine-induced reactive lymph node enlargement. Lymph node metastasis may be excluded, especially if there are hypermetabolic lymph nodes with preserved fatty hilum in the contralateral axilla on the same side as the vaccinated arm. Active lymph nodes reactive to the vaccine become inactive after a while.

Keywords: Axillary lymph nodes, COVID-19 vaccination, breast cancer, 18F-FDG PET/CT


Informed Consent: Written informed consent was obtained from the patient.

Peer-review:Externally peer-reviewed.

Authorship Contributions

Surgical and Medical Practices: C.T., E.M.S., Concept: C.T., A.D., E.M.S., F.S.P., S.S., Design: C.T., F.S.P., Data Collection or Processing: C.T., A.D., F.S.P., S.S., Analysis or Interpretation: C.T., A.D., E.M.S., F.S.P., S.S., Literature Search: C.T., Writing: C.T.

Conflict of Interest: No conflict of interest was declared by the authors.

Financial Disclosure: The authors declared that this study has received no financial support.


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