I was introduced to a new term recently – scanxiety. Though not a new concept, the word was new to me. The term was brought up at a cancer support group. Scanxiety refers to anxiety before, during, and after medical scans. Technically, it could apply to anyone with health issues. But, as cancer survivors, we know firsthand the anxiety that comes with awaiting text results. Luckily, I have some tips to cope with scanxiety.
In this post, I will explain what scanxiety is and offer some simple approaches to reducing the anxiety surrounding medical tests.
What is Scanxiety?
Still, almost seven years after my cancer diagnosis, I get scanxiety. I get scans every six months. Scanxiety starts rearing its ugly head as I get closer to the scan date. By the day of the scan, I am jittery, irritable, crabby, and restless. I was so jittery during an MRI, the tech suggested I take a sedative the next time I need an MRI. The MRI was blurry and they were barely able to read it.
Until I receive the final scan results, the symptoms continue. Before I get my test results, my scanxiety is horrible every time the phone rings. Before I see the caller ID, my heart starts beating quickly. If it happens to be the doctor’s office, forget about it. It can take hours to come down from that scanxiety high. I have a whole post about Phone Call Stress – Awaiting Test Results After a Cancer Diagnosis.
Now that you know what scanxiety is, what can you do about it?
I spend a lot of time with other breast cancer survivors. Although it is a club no one ever wants to belong to, once you are in, the breast cancer sisterhood can be a wonderful, supportive, group. We commiserate, encourage, celebrate, and share tips and suggestions with each other. After the group discussion today, I decided to write a post on tips to cope with scanxiety to help other cancer survivors with anxiety before, during, and after scans.
8 Simple Tips to Cope with Scanxiety by a Cancer Survivor
Scanxiety is the anxiety surrounding medical tests and scans. There are practical tips to help you cope scanxiety.
- Go to your Happy Place: literally or figuratively
- Learn: Knowing is half the battle
- Be Prepared
- Help Others
1. Go to your Happy Place – literally or figuratively
Take your mind off your scanxiety by doing something you love or going to your happy place. Listen to music, treat yourself to a drink (coffee, wine, beer, whatever), visit with friends, or whatever else makes you happy.
For me, I love being outside. I find walking around the lake or taking a hike gets my mind off of things.
2. Learn: Knowing is half the battle
One of the tips to cope with scanxiety is to understand how the test results will be communicated with you. It helps to know if you will be given the results over the phone, by email, or through an online patient portal. That way, you might not freak out every time the phone rings if you are expecting your scan results by email.
I’m sure you already know this, but exercise helps just about everything. You don’t have to go all out or run a marathon, just get your body moving. Get your blood flowing. For example, take a walk around the neighborhood. If you want to know the science behind how exercise can help scanxiety, read the New York Times article, How Exercise Can Calm Anxiety.
Now that you are done exercising, it’s time to relax. Chill out! That’s easier said than done, right?
Practice mindfulness. Try meditating or doing yoga. You could even try downloading some meditation podcasts if you have trouble meditating on your own. For yoga, there are lots of places to find free online yoga videos. I like the free site, Do Yoga with Me.
Soak in a bubble bath with your favorite magazine and preferred beverage nearby.
Another helpful tip is to accept the fact that you have scanxiety. Talk to someone about it or write about it in your journal. If it helps, try to figure out what exactly you are so stressed about. Are you scared of a recurrence? What is the worst that can happen?
6. Be Prepared
Although it is not fun to think about, make plans for the worst-case scenario. Having a plan will give you a (small) sense of control. We, cancer survivors, know that cancer can make you feel powerless. Even having a little bit of control can ease the mind.
7. Help Others
Research shows that when we help others we also help ourselves. Don’t believe me? Check out this article, How Helping Others Can Reduce Stress and Increase Happiness. You don’t have to organize a large fundraising event, just choose a small act of kindness. Pay it forward, volunteer in your community, spend time with a lonely friend, visit the nursing home, and so on.
If all else fails, there’s always medication. Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness. With the help of a doctor, you can find a medication that is right for you.
Scanxiety refers to cancer survivors’ anxiety before, during, and after scans. Luckily, by using these tips, people can reduce the anxiety surrounding their medical tests and scans.
This scanxiety post was created by Rachel Belkin, an Austin, Texas blogger and young breast cancer survivor. Please share with your friends by pinning any of the images, or using the social shares buttons.
Got a reply from Joan Lunden on Twitter!
@chachingqueen Getting annual health scans can be nervewracking, but they can also be life saving. Here are some tips to help reduce anxiety
— Joan Lunden (@JoanLunden) October 6, 2016
If you know anyone having a mastectomy or other breast surgery, these breast cancer recovery shirts are a must-have.
Rachel K. Belkin, M.Ed, is a journalist and writer with over 15 years of expertise in travel, business and marketing education, health, and local Austin, Texas events.
With a Master's degree in education from Texas State University and a Business Foundations Certification from The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business, Rachel's extensive background is highlighted by her published works and contributions to prestigious publications, including HuffPost, Hometalk, Matador Network, AP News, and MSN.com, as well as on her own platforms, Rachel K. Belkin, Elkin Bay, and Probe the Globe.
Beyond her accomplishments in writing, Rachel is a sought-after educator, teaching businesses effective marketing strategies and content creation techniques. Notably, she successfully built a blog from scratch in 2008, ultimately selling it for six figures in 2021.
Rachel's commitment to advocacy is exemplified by her role on the Breast Cancer Resource Center Advisory Council, particularly contributing to the success of the Young Survivor Project. Rachel is also an experienced public speaker with appearances on TV segments for Fox 7 Austin, KXAN, and CBS Austin and as a speaker at conferences and professional networking meetings for business owners and cancer survivors.