Scanxiety: What It Is And How to Handle It

During your cancer journey, you will have many MRIs, ultrasounds and other imaging techniques used to see what is happening inside your body. Getting the scan and waiting for the results can cause “scanxiety.” This is a common feeling of nervousness and anxiety experienced by many individuals dealing with breast cancer. Here are some tips to cope with the complicated emotion:

Carefully schedule the scan
If at all possible, schedule your scan to happen shortly after you wake up. This way, you are not spending hours getting increasingly worried about it before finally going in. Not a fan of waiting for the results? Schedule a doctor's appointment four or so days after the scan so you won't have to wait long. Often, the images come through in two or three days, and having a doctor's appointment around that time will allow you to hear the news from your physician in person, instead of over the phone or a few days later.

Photo: Adobe Stock/s4svisuals
Photo: Adobe Stock/s4svisuals

Bring distractions
The moments between signing the various forms and actually getting the imaging done leave time for your mind to wander into potentially stressful territory. Don't let that happen. Instead, bring a friend that will make you laugh and calm you down. Or, try watching a movie on your phone or indulging in a good book.

Consider listening to music
When you are inside of an MRI machine, you may become claustrophobic. This will only add to your nerves and can cause panic. Try your best to close your eyes and relax, and consider bringing your own tunes to help calm you down. If punk rock is your thing and you'll stay still while mentally jamming along, go for it. Some people enjoy soothing sounds like waterfalls or orchestral pieces, but choose what works for you. The MRI staff will play your music through their stereo and into MRI-safe headphones so your device doesn't interrupt the scanning process.

It’s important to allow yourself to feel the emotions you need to feel so you can move forward and heal. But be careful not to let your brain run away with particularly dangerous thoughts about what could happen. You are strong and capable, and you will get through this, just as you have gotten through everything else thus far. We’re rooting for you.

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