Tools Patients, Survivors and Cancer Caregivers Use to Deal With ‘Scanxiety’

CURE® surveyed its audience to see how they cope with “scanxiety,” the anxiety surrounding cancer scans. Here’s what they had to say.

Waiting to hear if a cancer scan is positive or negative can be stressful.
For some survivors, this process is so stressful that they have dubbed the term scanxiety: anxiety they have before undergoing cancer scans and when waiting to hear back about the results. Some cancer survivors have written about trying multiple methods to deal with scanxiety while others have spoken about finding comfort in specific routines.

In a recent #CureConnect question, we asked the CURE® audience on social media, “Do you experience scanxiety? What tools do you use to cope?”

Seek Help From Doctors

“My husband would ask to have his scan within 24 to 48 hours of his appointment to cut down on post-scan anxiety. His oncologist was great about it!” - Linda M.

“I have had scans every three months for the last three years and it doesn't seem to get easier, but I have asked my oncologist to call me with results. The wait for results is my hardest part. I suffer from severe anxiety and (my oncologist) has done everything he can to help make it easier on me.” -Stephanie J., a woman with stage 4 triple-negative breast cancer.

“Yes, it's a dread. Before, during and waiting for your follow up appointment for the results. It's very stressful. I find myself praying and that helps. The radiologist is really nice, and he tends to play music in the background so it eases the comfort a bit.”-Juanita Z., a patient with stage 3 colon cancer.

Meditation and Mindset

“Before my prostate cancer diagnosis, I never had anxiety. It developed a few years after initial treatment when a few friends had a recurrence. We are about the same age with the same stage cancer, and so far, my scans have been clear. But lately, my bloodwork has become a bit unstable, so my anxiety is at an all-time high. I try to live in the moment, but it's hard to not think about it.”-Gogs Gagnon, a prostate cancer survivor and CURE® contributor.

“I don’t have anxiety about getting the scan, it’s about the results. Once I know that a radiologist somewhere knows and I don’t yet, the clock seems to tick slower. The wait is brutal, especially if it takes longer than normal to hear back.”-Velvet L., a woman with stage 4 adrenal cortical carcinoma.

“I have two types of scanxiety. For claustrophobia (over) MRI(s), I use anti-anxiety medication, prayer, meditation and visualization to keep me from pushing the panic button and screaming to be let out. For scanxiety over results, I also use medication as needed, prayer and meditation. I try to take things as they come, one tiny step at a time.” - Sarah C., a woman with stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma.

“My husband and I assiduously practice denial up until about two weeks before the scan date, then gradually (first slow, then fast) transition into panic mode. So far, nothing helps once you’re in panic mode. (We) just try to keep in mind how many times we’ve done (cancer treatment), and (that) we can do it again if we have to.”- Mae W.

Comfort in Community and Treats

“After 6.5 years, I still suffer from scan anxiety. (I) had (a scan) today and my blood pressure was through my roof. I stay busy, write, read, do deep breathing exercises, pray (and) vent with other cancer patients. Just know you're not alone. Reach out for support.”- Kelly Irvin, a woman with stage 4 ovarian cancer and CURE® contributor.

“I take (diazepam) before a scan and do my scans with high hopes and a huge smile. I (give myself) a treat afterwards: a lunch out somewhere, a cupcake or a (comfy) pair of socks or nail polish. I'm a reward kind of girl; just a little treat means the world to me.”-Linda L., a patient with triple-negative breast cancer and rectal cancer.

"I’m going through biopsy anxiety which is similar (to scanxiety). (I am) terrified. How am I coping? Texting and calling every single good friend I have and asking them to hold me in their thoughts."-Linda S., a two-time cancer survivor.

Find Solace in Faith

“I get a little anxious the day of (scans). I am anxious for good results, my (blood pressure) goes up, and the cocktails you drink before (the scan) do not agree with me. The worst for me is waiting for the results because that is really when all negative thoughts creep in. I pray and ask the Lord for minimal stress during this journey and good results.”- Debbie H., a patient with endometrial cancer.

“I do experience scanxiety leading up to my scans. I try to keep busy and spend time in scripture which is comforting and brings me peace.”-Sam M., a patient with breast cancer.

“Prayers, prayers, prayers. When in pain, I prayed for every procedure.”- Melba Q.

If you also suffer from scanxiety, know that you are not alone. Mental health care can help with scanxiety and CURE® has compiled a guide for patients with cancer, survivors and their caregivers to help find the best mental health care available to them.

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