Whether your child has just finished chemo or they’re a 5-year survivor, scans are always scary. The potential of cancer returning is terrifying, especially when you know how difficult and devastating treatment can be. Scan anxiety, or what has become known as “scanxiety” can be crippling, even years after the end of treatment. If you or your child is experiencing scanxiety, try out some of the tips below to try to minimize the anxious feelings that creep in before scans.
Know that you are not alone. This is something nearly every cancer patient or parent of a survivor will feel at some point. It’s a natural and rational fear, especially considering all you’ve been through. For some people, just knowing that it’s okay to feel this way can assuage some of the anxious feelings. If your child is having these fears, be sure to let them know that this is very common, and even share that you’re feeling the same way.
Have a plan. Although it’s scary to think about, make plans for what you will do immediately after hearing the news in the worst-case scenario. You’re probably thinking about it already, so planning the next step could help give you a small sense of control, even when cancer has made you feel powerless. Once you have this plan, try to let this scenario float away and distract yourself until results are in.
Get distracted. Plan something to distract you or your child, especially if you know when scan anxiety hits the worst. Read a book together, see a movie or plan a play date – anything that allows you to relax for a while.
Keep your friends close. Before the appointment, try to be around reassuring and supporting people. It helps to have people around you to tell you things will be ok, even if you can’t say that to yourself or your child. Talk with your support system and your child about what both of you might need at this time – do you want to talk about your anxiety? Would you rather just have a distraction? Communicate this to the people around you so they can help give you what you need.
Get it over with early. When you’re feeling anxious, waiting is the worst. If possible, schedule tests early in the day or early in the week so your anxiety has less time to build.
Know how and when you will get the results of the scans. Confirm whether you’ll hear via a call, an email, a patient portal message, or a meeting with your doctor. If you schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss the results of the scan, you’ll know exactly when and how you’ll get the answers you’re waiting for. This way, you won’t have to anxiously check your phone every 15 seconds while waiting for a call.
Calm your body down. Sometimes feelings of anxiety can trigger certain reactions in your body – counteracting these reactions can make you feel more in control. Look for breathing or meditation exercises that can help you control your body’s response. Practice them by yourself or with your child, if you think they are helpful.
Get help. Many forms of anxiety are much more manageable with medication or therapy. If the anxious feelings are triggered easily or occur long before or long after scans, these options might help you control them more easily. Talk with your doctor or your child’s doctor about the anxiety to discover if an anxiety medication or therapy might be a step in the right direction to feeling better.
If you have tips for how to deal with the anxiety that comes with scans, we'd love to hear them! Share this blog on your Facebook page and let us know how you cope with scanxiety.