LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When the COVID-19 vaccine became available, middle school teacher Pattei Koth gladly rolled up her sleeve with the safety of her students on her mind. 

What You Need To Know

  • Pattie Koth is a middle school teacher who got vaccinated to keep her students safe

  • She experienced swelling under her arm

  • After a mammogram, she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer

  • There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine causes or leads to the development of cancer

Koth saw her doctor after she noticed swelling under one of her arms, near where she received her vaccine continued to grow. 

Her doctor said that since the vaccine can cause temporary swelling of lymph nodes which could lead to misleading X-ray scans, her doctor scheduled her for a mammogram a few weeks later. 

“Shortly after my mammogram, within two hours I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” says Koth. 

Koth first needs to go through seven rounds of chemotherapy.

“The second chapter is a second round of chemotherapy followed by surgery followed by radiation. My journey is longer because I am stage three,” says Koth. 

If it weren’t for the vaccine, she might not have been alerted to the cancer diagnosis until it was too late.

“If it’s stage 4 of any type of cancer currently it cannot be cured. Stage 1 to stage 3 typically can be cured,” says Koth’s doctor Beth Riley with the UofL Health Brown Cancer Center at Medical Center Northeast. 

Dr. Riley says the number of delayed diagnosis cases is an increasing issue.

It ties to patients being afraid to go inside hospitals and limited access to screenings during the pandemic. 

“Before COVID we always saw worse outcomes in patients who did not get routine screenings so this was a problem before COVID, it just got exaggerated in the patient population who was very compliant with health care after that. 

Both Koth and Dr. Riley stress the importance of regular health screenings and health care in general. 

“Don’t put your health screenings off. Now is the time to go ahead and do it and whatever information you end up with on the other side you just take it one day at a time,” says Koth. 

After sharing the news with her school family, students turned in some unassigned papers to their teacher. 

“I call them love letters. Each of my students have written to me and thanked me and that means a lot,” says Koth. 

There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine causes or leads to the development of cancer.