Scanxiety…the very real (and often times, terrifying) feeling a cancer patient or survivor has when an upcoming scan is approaching. Perhaps you’ve experienced your own version of scanxiety when your doctor sends you for blood work or some other test. You start to wonder, “what will they find?” and “do I need to worry?”
At some point, we’ve probably all had scanxiety at a doctor’s office. For me, this form of anxiety is a frequent visitor, who comes knocking each and every time I visit the lab for blood work or go to see my endocrinologist for a neck ultrasound.
For many, scanxiety can feel like the cost of doing business; an annoying trade-off for maintaining your health. But, luckily, there are ways to cope with it, and as more people recognize that scanxiety is a crippling emotion, there will be greater opportunities for people to learn how to manage it.
So, what can you do if you or a loved one suffers with scanxiety?
1. Talk about it: I didn’t realize that scanxiety was such a big issue for so many people until it came up in a question on a Twitter chat I was participating in at work. When I saw the word, I instantly recognized it and realized that I wasn’t alone in my feelings. Telling friends and family members of your struggles is a good way to help you cope before, during, and after an upcoming scan.
2. Plan something fun the day of your scan: Try to focus less on the actual scan and instead look forward to the fun plans you’ve made for when it’s over. I always treat myself to something after my scan—it could be a trip to Sephora for new makeup or just to grab a coffee with a friend—but just the mere act of having “other plans” usually makes me feel less anxious about the day.
3. Find a meditation app: I’ve been a fan of the Calm app for a couple of years now. I love that they offer daily meditations with guided imagery and also soothing sounds that you can relax to. I’ve found that just listening to the sounds of waves crashing on the shore can instantly put me in a more tranquil state right before my scan.
4. Join a support group: If you are a newly diagnosed patient or recent survivor dealing with scanxiety, a support group may be a great place to meet other people who share your concerns. When I was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I joined Inspire, an online community for patients, families, friends, and caregivers that offers health and wellness support. There, I met other newly diagnosed patients and started to feel like I wasn’t going through the journey alone.
5. Acknowledge your feelings: Simply recognizing that your scanxiety is real is a monumental step. For some, scanxiety can be short-lived, but for others, it can last a lifetime. By understanding your feelings, and realizing that there are tools that can help you manage scanxiety, you will be able to cope with the fears surrounding your upcoming scans.
As I prepare to see my endocrinologist soon, I fully recognize that I am in full-on scanxiety mode. But I also know that with the coping mechanisms listed above, I will come out just fine on the other side.
Have you ever experienced scanxiety? What coping mechanisms worked for you?