By: 25 January 2023
How to overcome ‘scanxiety’

Scanxiety is the anxious feeling many patients experience before, during, and after each scan. Facing unknown health issues is one of the most anxiety-riddled times in a person’s life. 

Anxiety can present itself in many ways throughout the process, impacting both the mental and physical health of the patient.

While it’s not possible to eliminate all the worry associated with getting a scan, there are a few ways patients can manage some of the anxiety. 

Let’s go over some of the methods that can help overcome scanxiety. 

What is scanxiety? 

Scanxiety is a word used by medical patients, frequently cancer patients and survivors, that describes the apprehension they feel surrounding their next scan. 

Anxiety and stress surrounding doctor appointments and cancer screenings can affect a patient’s quality of life. It can cause an intense sense of dread and fear. The distress of facing a first or recurring scan can cause emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual distress.

When a person feels acute anxiety, the body reacts to the stress, causing physical and chemical changes. This distress can impact an individual’s overall health and cause connections in the brain to weaken, creating brain fog and other adverse cognitive effects. 

There are many triggers associated with scanxiety. These include undergoing the scans themselves, waiting for the results, hearing the diagnosis, being uneasy about the X-ray machine itself, and worrying about the illness.

The feeling a patient gets when affected by scanxiety can make daily activities difficult, strain relationships with family and friends, and cause nausea, changes in sleep patterns, pain, and fatigue.

Taking steps to manage scanxiety can help patients face their diagnosis and focus on what they need to do for their health journey and recovery.

Here’s an infographic that further explains what scanxiety is and how to overcome it.

How to manage scanxiety

Managing scanxiety is not always easy. While waiting for results can be very distressing, knowing that they aren’t alone and that someone else has been in a similar situation and may be willing to talk can help the patient immensely.

Joining support groups can help them navigate some of the anxiety and distress associated with scanxiety. Sharing and learning from others not only helps patients educate themselves about the process of taking X-ray images, but it also helps alleviate some of the loneliness that scanxiety often causes.

Continuing to talk to supportive family and friends can also be helpful. Keeping active physically and mentally can help the patient find confidence and keep their mind busy.

Maintaining a healthy routine can help them cope. If they feel well enough, keeping up with their daily routines can help keep their mind active and adjusted.

The patient should do what feels right for them

Managing anxiety can be quite different for different people. Some people might get their minds off scanxiety by joining a bird-watching club, while others might find peace of mind going to a heavy metal concert.

No matter what approach is right for the individual patient, maintaining a routine is a way to take back control of their life when other areas are out of their hands.

While imaging is improving with AI and 3D-based modalities, medical procedures like spinal surgery are becoming less invasive, recovery times are decreasing, medical screenings will always be a source of potential anxiety for patients.

Taking small steps to stay healthy and keep distracted can help refocus thoughts and quell some of the anxiety. Setting personal goals like going for a daily walk, writing in a journal, calling a friend, or finishing a small project can help keep the patient’s mind positive and prepared to take on the unknown.