Scanxiety may not officially be a real word, but the feelings it brings about are real. Very Well Health defines scanxiety as the term used to “describe the anxiety people with cancer feel while waiting for scans”. Regardless of whether the scans are for diagnostic purposes, monitoring treatment, checking recurrence or as a check-up, individuals can experience apprehension before, during, and while waiting for the results of their scans. The apprehension and fear that is felt can range from feeling claustrophobic in the scan machine to imagining the worst-case scenario of the scan results. Many people experience scanxiety so it is important to learn coping techniques that help eliminate the anxiety.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
The first step to reducing your fears is admitting that they are there, to yourself and your healthcare team, if needed. It’s important to admit that you are in fact feeling anxiety and to know that you’re not alone in what you are feeling. If the fears are overwhelming, letting your healthcare team know about it is helpful. They can help make the experience as smooth as possible.
Do Research and Make Plans
If you're feeling anxious before your scans, finding out what will happen during your scans can be helpful. Visit highly reputable website, read brochures, or ask questions about your upcoming scan. You’ll want to know what the machine looks like, how the scans are done, how long it is expected to take, and whatever else you can gather. By being aware of what will happen, you leave little room for being anxious about the unknown. It also means that you can make plans for the day of your scans. Some places give you headphones to wear. By knowing this, you can make a playlist of your favorite songs to calm your nerves during the process. You might also be able to bring someone with you. Knowing this beforehand will be helpful so that you can speak to who you want to have with you about your fears beforehand. While doing research is helpful, do not go overboard with it as this may lead you right back to where you started.
Join a Support Group
While admitting your fears to yourself and healthcare team is recommended, it also helps if you can speak to others who have been through the same thing. You can join in-person or online support groups so that you can speak to others who have gone through scanxiety or currently going through it. People who are going through the same thing can help validate the fact that you are not alone and share coping strategies that worked for them. They will also be able to provide a balance between acknowledging the reality of your fears and providing positive support and reassurance.
Our Canadian Breast Cancer Patient Network is an online Facebook group and is a great place to get started.
If the anxiety you feel is before the scan or while waiting for the scan results, find a positive avenue to distract yourself. Watch TV, read a book, surround yourself with family and friends or pick up a new hobby. Simply keeping yourself busy and distracted means that you’ll spend less time worrying about things out of your control. Meditating, practicing mindfulness, doing yoga or light exercise are great ways to distract yourself while also promoting good mental health. While our Complementary Therapies magazine is geared towards individuals in active treatment or those dealing with the side effects of treatment, it is a great place to get started.