How I Deal With Scanxiety


When I have scanxiety, I try to reduce my anxiety by taking warm baths and writing.

Illustration of a woman with blonde hair and glasses.

Scanxiety is a term coined to describe the mix of fear, anxiety and stress associated with medical scans. This feeling is an authentic and often overwhelming experience for individuals facing Lynch syndrome, various other hereditary cancer syndromes, patients with cancer and survivors.

Lynch syndrome, the most common hereditary condition, predisposes individuals to multiple types of cancer, particularly colorectal and endometrial cancer. While regular screenings are crucial for early detection and intervention when cancer is most treatable, they also bring unique emotional challenges.

Lynch syndrome, a hereditary condition stemming from genetic mutations, significantly raises the risk of certain cancers, including colorectal and endometrial cancer. For me, this diagnosis has meant navigating a delicate balance between proactive screenings and the overwhelming anxiety that accompanies them.

I will soon make my annual pilgrimage to Mayo in Rochester, Minnesota, for the Lynch syndrome scans. For some reason or another, my scanxiety is worse than usual, and its manifestation at this point is complex and multifaceted. I'm consumed by fear and exhaustion of the unknown leading up to each scan and test. The possibility of receiving news about cancer feels like a heavy weight on my shoulders, dominating my thoughts and emotions. The waiting period is a relentless battle against "what ifs" and worst-case scenarios, each moment feeling like an eternity.

The anticipation of undergoing medical procedures only adds another layer of stress. The anxiety and discomfort during scans heighten my sense of vulnerability and helplessness. As someone who has witnessed the toll of cancer on my brothers, the death of my eldest brother firsthand triggers traumatic memories, intensifying the emotional turmoil.

Scanxiety this year has led to difficulty concentrating and disrupted sleep patterns. It can strain my relationships as loved ones grapple to understand and support the emotional rollercoaster I'm riding. Seeking support from understanding friends, my son, and other previvors has provided a lifeline of empathy and validation, reminding me that I'm not alone in this fight.

Expressing my emotions through writing has always been a therapeutic release for me. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques have become essential to my coping strategies, offering moments of calm amidst the storm. Taking warm baths and listening to soothing music, such as binaural beats, helps calm my mind. Reducing my coffee intake and enjoying more mushroom coffee seems to help reduce my anxiety a bit. Turning my phone off, taking naps, and engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfillment is a welcome distraction from the relentless cycle of worry and fear. It is essential during this time to list what is going well in my life and all that I am grateful for. Most importantly, I need to remind myself that I am in stellar medical hands.

Ultimately, living with scanxiety due to Lynch syndrome is about finding a delicate balance between vigilance and self-care. While the fear of cancer may never fully dissipate, I refuse to let it overshadow the beauty and potential of everyday life. By acknowledging and addressing my emotional needs, I'm learning to navigate the rollercoaster of anxiety with resilience and grace and looking forward to brighter days ahead.

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