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How to Fight Scanxiety: Tips to Overcome Scan-related Stress

Scanxiety refers to the feelings of anxiety, stress and worry people experience before, during and after undergoing certain scans such as CT scans, MRI scans and PET scans. Cancer patients are especially prone to scanxiety because scans are an essential part of the diagnosis, monitoring and follow-up of the disease. Living with scanxiety can be challenging, but there are many things you can do to prepare yourself and manage these negative emotions. In this article, we will discuss some tips and strategies that can help you combat scanxiety and reduce stress levels associated with medical scans.

Why Do We Experience Scanxiety?

Scanxiety is a normal and understandable reaction to undergoing medical tests that have major implications for our health. These scans can be scary and intimidating because they can reveal life-altering conditions, involve potential risks, unknown results and lead to further medical procedures. Moreover, scans may trigger distressful memories, thoughts of death and worries about the future. Thus, it’s important to acknowledge scanxiety and find ways to cope with it.

Tips to Overcome Scan-related Stress

1. Be Informed

Knowing what to expect can reduce some of the uncertainty and anxiety associated with having a scan. Learn about your imaging procedure beforehand by speaking to health professionals and researching online. Make sure you understand the scan process, what will happen during the scan, how to prepare for the scan, when you will get the results and what the results might indicate. This will make you feel more empowered and in control, and lessen some of the fear of the unknown.

2. Bring a Support Person

Having someone with you who can offer emotional support, understanding and encouragement can make a significant difference in your scan experience and reduce your anxiety levels. This person could be a friend, family member or a trained healthcare provider. They can accompany you during your appointment, hold your hand during the procedure and assist in interpreting the results. They can also serve as a distraction and help you relax.

3. Practice Mindfulness Techniques

Mindfulness can help you stay calm and centered during challenging moments. Mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and meditation can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Try to focus on your breathing, relax your muscles, and visualize a positive outcome. There are even smartphone apps dedicated to mindfulness, such as Headspace and Calm, that can guide you through exercises and help you stay calm.

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4. Find a Distraction

Distraction is a powerful tool when it comes to reducing stress. Bring your favorite music, audiobook or podcast to listen to during the scan or read an interesting book while you wait for your results. You can also concentrate on a hobby or activity you enjoy as a way of escaping from the stress. If you find joy and pleasure in these activities, your brain will produce more endorphins, which can help counter the feelings of anxiety and stress.

5. Practice Self-Care

Don’t neglect self-care just because you have a scan approaching. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, drinking enough water, and getting regular exercise. By taking care of your physical health, you’ll be better prepared to face the stressful moments and manage any negative feelings that arise. Self-care can also include treating yourself to something pleasurable and fun after the scan, which can help you unwind and reward yourself for your courage.

6. Join a Support Group

There is strength in numbers, and you don’t have to go through scanxiety alone. Joining a support group of people who are dealing with similar issues can provide a sense of belonging, validation, hope, and encouragement. Hearing other people’s stories and getting support from people who understand your struggles can help you feel less isolated, less afraid and more hopeful about your situation. You can find support groups online or through your hospital or health care provider.

Conclusion: It’s Possible to Overcome Scanxiety

Undergoing scans can be an overwhelming and stressful experience, but it doesn’t have to ruin your life. By using some of the suggested tips and techniques, you can manage your scan-related stress and reduce your anxiety levels. Remember that scanxiety is a natural and normal reaction to the situation, and you should not feel ashamed or embarrassed for experiencing it. Try to stay positive, optimistic, and proactive in your approach, and with time and practice, you will be able to fight scanxiety and live a more fulfilling life.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does scanxiety last?

Scanxiety can last for a short period or it can continue for weeks or months, depending on factors such as the nature of the scan, the frequency of scans, and coping strategies used. It’s important to be patient with yourself and accept that everyone’s scanxiety is different. Some anxiety may be normal, but it should not become overwhelming or debilitating. If it does, speak to a healthcare provider.

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Can medication be used to treat scanxiety?

Medication is not always needed to treat scanxiety, but it can be helpful for some people. Anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines or beta-blockers can be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and promote relaxation. Talk to your healthcare provider if you think that medication might be beneficial for you.

What are some signs and symptoms of scanxiety?

Some common signs and symptoms of scanxiety include insomnia, restlessness, irritability or anger, fatigue, nervousness, sweating, racing heartbeat, trembling, shortness of breath, and stomach problems. If you experience these symptoms or other physical or emotional changes, talk to your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Can scanxiety be prevented?

Scanxiety cannot be entirely prevented since it’s a natural and normal response to the situation. However, there are ways to minimize its effects, such as preparing yourself in advance, getting support, practicing mindfulness, and engaging in self-care activities. Additionally, identifying the causes of your scanxiety, such as a fear of death or past traumas, can help you find ways to address them and overcome them.

Is it normal to feel anxious before a scan?

Yes, it’s normal to feel anxious before a scan, especially if you have never had one before or if you have had a previous medical condition. Scans are not always easy or comfortable, but they are essential to diagnose and monitor certain health conditions. It’s okay to feel nervous or scared, but try to use some of the suggested coping strategies to calm yourself down and overcome the feeling of anxiety.

Should I tell my healthcare provider about my scanxiety?

Yes, you should absolutely tell your healthcare provider about your scanxiety. They may be able to offer some supportive strategies, recommend relaxation techniques, or even prescribe medication to alleviate some of the symptoms. They will also be better equipped to understand your needs and concerns, develop a plan of care and offer appropriate guidance.


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