How to deal with Cancer Scanxiety?

Scans are a part of life when cancer is in the picture. Be it for diagnosis, treatment response or during follow up scans become an inevitable part of cancer journey. Undergoing imaging scans can lead to a variety of emotions in most people. Scanxiety in the cancer community is described as the feelings of nervousness, stress or worry in the period before, during and while waiting for the test results. In many cancer patients or survivors, whether scans are being done for diagnosis, to monitor treatment, or to check for a recurrence, navigating the emotions associated with scans can be difficult. Having tests and waiting for results can be scary and incredibly unnerving, and different levels of scanxiety can impact a person’s quality of life.

These uncomfortable feelings are quite obvious for some reasons, some scans for cancer can be physically uncomfortable, and sometimes you need to deal with loud noises while you’re in the scanning machine. Or the patient may dread the thought of another needle stick or of needing to drink a lot of liquid to prepare for the scan. Some may find the scans themselves very difficult and may experience heightened feelings of claustrophobia during the scan.

Scanxiety can show up in the form of physical effects.

Anxiety releases adrenaline and other hormones that prepare you for “fight or flight.” This can lead to nausea, trouble eating and difficulty sleeping. You may seem moody and feel out of control. Increased heart rate, irritability, sweaty palms, and nausea are the common symptoms experienced before a scan.

The fear of cancer recurrence is real especially in post treatment period and in the cancer survivors. The possible reason for this fear being so common in cancer patients is that many of them have already experienced negative results from the scans earlier. The past experiences can fuel these feelings of fear, insecurity and helplessness.

Unfortunately, scans are often an essential part of cancer treatment and survivorship care, so it’s important to learn how to recognize scanxiety and its effect on you and those you care for, as well as to think about how to lessen its burden. You need to understand that scanxiety is a normal response.

The most important thing people experiencing scanxiety can do is to identify its physical effects on them. Stress response can be better understood by knowing how your body reacts to scanxiety.

Here are some ways to ease up your scanxiety

Learn how you react: Everybody’s different, Stress response can be better understood by knowing how your body reacts to scanxiety. When you know how you respond, it becomes easy to identify the signs of distress and take steps to relieve them.

Live in the present moment: Stop reliving the past, focus to keep your mind in the now, thinking about the past or what might happen in the future only stresses you out,

Understand yourself: Acknowledge that this is hard, and treat yourself with compassiondon’t let anxiety take over your thoughts nonstop. Choose 10 minutes once or twice a day to focus on your fears. When those thoughts arise at other times, gently remind yourself to think about it at your scheduled time. If you need to, write down your fears so you can think them over then.

Plan in advance: This will help you cut down on your wait and give you less time to feel anxious.

Make your scan as comfortable as possible: Talk to your technician about what will happen so you know what to expect during the scan. Check if you can get a blanket, eye mask or headphones to listen to music. This may make a loud, confined scan less stressful. If scan involves a needle stick or anything else painful, ask your doctor for numbing and pain killers.

Discuss with your doctor about the test results: Ask your doctor to keep your wait for results as short as possible. Also discuss how you’d like to get them: in a phone call, email, or in-person visit. If you will discuss results in person, schedule the appointment for as soon as possible after the scan.

Resort to distractions: Distracting yourself from the stress helps to avoid such symptoms. Engage in activities that demand your complete focus, such as knitting, painting, listening to music and meditation or anything else that interests you.

Speak out and share: Calling your family or a friend or someone who will listen to you could provide you with immense relief.

Join a support group: Joining a support group and talking to people who are facing similar issues could be of great help.

Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation may worsen your stress and anxiety. Have a bedtime routine and It is good to get at least eight to nine hours of sleep each night, especially when your scan is only a few days away.

Use relaxation techniques: Simple deep breathing exercises can calm down your heart rate and ease anxiety. Exercise, yoga, meditation can help you ease your scanxiety.

Scanxiety is for real, it is not just an emotion or feeling.

To avoid any undesirable health effects scanxiety has to be effectively addressed. Though Scanxiety cannot be completely avoided, it is possible to learn to cope up with it.