Do you feel fear and anxiety revolving around medical scans? Scanxiety is when cancer patients experience apprehension before, during, and/or after scans, such as an X-ray, MRI, CAT/CT scan, or ultrasound.
Scanxiety is understandable, as the period following a cancer diagnosis can be a frightening time for anyone. It is important to manage it to prevent symptoms from worsening and interfering with daily life. Thankfully, there are numerous tips and coping strategies for managing anxiety during cancer scans.
The first step to managing scanxiety is to understand it. Scanxiety can be caused by various factors related to medical scans, such as:
- Being screened for cancer
- Waiting for the results of any scan
- Being diagnosed with cancer
- Worrying that cancer will return
You may have scanxiety if you are experiencing feelings like anxiety, depression, panic, sadness, or any distressing feeling related to medical scans. Remember that you are not alone; evidence suggests around 55% of cancer patients experience scanxiety.
The impact of scanxiety on cancer patients affects both mental and physical health. You may not be able to control everything that happens to your health, but you can take control of your scanxiety and find an intervention that works for you.
7 Tips and Strategies for Managing Anxiety During Cancer Scans
The most important consideration about coping with scanxiety is finding the best strategy for you. Here are seven tips and strategies to help you manage anxiety during pancreatic cancer scans:
1. Prepare for Scans
One of the best ways to manage anxiety during cancer scans is to prepare yourself mentally and physically. This includes knowing what to expect during the scan, asking questions about the process, and understanding the potential risks and benefits of the scan. Preparing for scans can help you feel more in control of the situation and reduce feelings of uncertainty and anxiety.
You can prepare by researching scans online on credible sites like the Mayo Clinic. You can also contact your healthcare provider for information. Call or use online patient portals to consult your scan results, discuss concerns about your health or treatment, and ask questions. Preparing a list of concerns and questions is a great way to stay on track during these connections.
2. Reach Out to Your Healthcare Provider to Interpret Scans
Scans are an important tool in diagnosing and monitoring cancer. However, the information contained in a scan can be complex and difficult for a patient to interpret without the proper training and expertise. This is why it is essential to seek help from your healthcare provider to interpret your scan results.
Not being able to interpret your scan results can increase stress and worry. The easiest way to gain peace of mind and ensure you fully understand the results is by contacting your healthcare provider.
3. Practice Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques are a powerful tool for reducing anxiety and stress during your pancreatic cancer treatment journey. Techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and meditation can help to calm your mind and body. This can reduce physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid breathing and increased heart rate.
There are many options where you can find videos, guides, music, and more, such as YouTube, apps, and books. You can practice these techniques anywhere and anytime, making them a convenient way to manage anxiety during scans.
4. Distract Yourself
Distracting yourself is a practical tool for taking your mind off negative thoughts and events. Pick up that book that’s been on your to-read list for years. Put your headphones on and listen to your favorite album or genre of music (classical can be very relaxing). If you like video games, download a new one and play to your heart’s content.
If you are feeling up to it, exercise is another great way to distract yourself while looking after your health. Not feeling well enough for full-on running or gym sessions? You could take a walk around the block, deep clean the house, do some gentle yoga stretches in the living room, or do any exercise at your own pace and ability. Shoot for five minutes if that’s what you can do.
5. Maintain a Strong Support System
Having a strong support system can make a significant difference in managing anxiety during cancer scans. This can include family, friends, healthcare providers, and support groups. These individuals can offer emotional support, practical help, and a listening ear when you need it most.
Feeling connected to others can also help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, which can contribute to anxiety. Your loved ones can bring happiness, humor, and warmth to help you cope during these stressful times.
6. Seek Help From a Therapist
If you find your anxiety difficult to manage on your own, talking to a therapist or counselor can provide valuable support and coping strategies. They can help you identify the underlying causes of your anxiety and develop effective ways to manage it. Therapy can also provide a safe and supportive environment to express your emotions and concerns.
7. Join a Support Group
Joining a support group can provide a safe space to express your feelings and concerns with others who are going through a similar experience. This can reduce feelings of isolation and provide emotional support during difficult times in your cancer journey.
Support groups often provide information and resources about cancer treatments, managing side effects, and coping strategies. Group members also share tips and techniques for managing stress and anxiety due to cancer, like scanxiety. Support groups are also a beneficial tool if you are struggling to find effective coping strategies on your own.
While scanxiety is a common experience for cancer patients, it can be managed with the right strategies and support. Understanding the factors that contribute to scanxiety, preparing for scans, seeking help from healthcare providers, practicing relaxation techniques, distracting yourself, maintaining a strong support system, seeking help from a therapist, and joining a support group are all effective ways to manage anxiety during cancer scans.
By taking control of your scanxiety and finding the interventions that work best for you, you can reduce the impact on your mental and physical health and continue to navigate your pancreatic cancer journey with strength and resilience.
If you or someone you know is struggling with scanxiety, we encourage you to take action today. Talk to your healthcare provider, reach out to loved ones, and explore resources like support groups and therapy. Remember that you are not alone in this experience and that help is available. Together, we can manage scanxiety and continue to prioritize our health and well-being.