Scanxiety

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Hi im new here, having a bit of a melt down to be honest about my annual surveillence scan which is due next week. I dont cope well with anxiety and worry and suddenly I feel really poorly and convinced the cancer has returned. I felt absoloutly fine 3 weeks ago when I sppke with the nurse and since getting a date for the scan I have loads of tummy pain and an insane amount of worry that life is about to change again and I just feel so overwhelmed by it. I know I go into this same state every year just struggle with how to deal with it and try to stay positive. Any tips for coping whilst waiting for the scan and results?

This will be my 5th annual scan after undergoing surgery and chemotherapy for bowel cancer at just 29 years old.

If you got this far thank you for reading. 

  • Hi MrsF. Yes I think we can all say that we suffer from scan anxiety and knowing that worrying makes things worse still doesn’t calm us down. 
    I was diagnosed and treated for bowel cancer in 2016/17. My oncologist told me that most recurrences happen within the first 2 years and once you’re past the 3 year mark then things are looking very good. I had my 5th scan in 2021 and I’ve been signed off from the hospital now.  Although scans are stressful they are vital because if, and it’s a very big if, something was found it would have been picked up quickly and can be dealt with. 
    There’s some good info in this piece that I pinched from the bowel cancer uk board so hopefully it may help?

     Managing your follow up & CEA 

    Macmillan Support Line - 0808 808 00 00, 7 days a week between 8am-8pm
  • Hi  totally understand this.

    I have been on my incurable blood cancer journey for over 23 years now so lost count of the scans I have had, most were good but for me, some were not good as I relapsed a number of times.

    In the early days I sat with my great CNS and she was very honest “Mike, you can stress and fret as much as you want when you are coming up to scan time but the reality is you can throw all the stress and anxiety in the world at this and it won’t make any difference to the outcomes but it does make you ill…… control the battle between the ears and only worry when you are told there is something to worry about”….. and she has been spot on over all these years.

    ((hugs))

    I found this article very helpful

    What Is Scanxiety and How Can You Manage It?……. Choose Hope

    The first time you read or hear it, “scanxiety” may look and sound like a funny word. However, when you are going through it, there is nothing funny about this very real condition. From the first MRI following a doctor’s suspicious discovery during a routine exam to the annual PET scan years after an initial diagnosis, the fear and worry that accompanies imaging appointments can take a significant toll on your emotional and mental wellbeing.

    Fortunately, you can take steps to minimise and cope with the sometimes-overwhelming emotions you feel.

    Acknowledge your Feelings

    Don’t try to ignore the way you feel, as this can actually increase your anxiety. Instead, recognise and even embrace your scanxiety. This first step empowers you to take action, move forward and manage your emotions, helping you find peace and feel more in control of your own life.

    Talk about It to the Right People

    Venting your fears and frustrations to people close to you can be a wonderful way to release stress and gain vital support. However, if you have folks in your life who tend to exacerbate your worries or load you up with even more concerns (and really, who doesn’t have that one friend or family member?), avoid sharing too much with them.

    Practice Mindful Living

    Ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” Look for ways to live in the moment. Hug your little boy and inhale deeply, noting the mingled fragrance of fresh earth and shampoo. Stroke your husband’s face and think about the way his soft stubble brushes your hand. Savour a particularly flavourful meal. Relish in the here and now.

    Distract Yourself

    Find ways to take your mind off the upcoming scan, at least for a while. Dig into a novel or binge watch a series that completely engrosses you. Turn up your favourite music and tackle a chore you’ve been putting off for too long. Hang out with that one friend who has a gift for making you laugh. Schedule some time to enjoy your favourite hobby without interruption. If you have trouble letting go, imagine setting your worries in a “to do later” box and tell yourself you can pick them up when you’re done.

    Ask Questions

    Sometimes, the unknown is the greatest instigator of anxiety. If you are unclear about anything – from what to expect during the scan, to when and how you can expect to receive your results, to what those results might mean - don’t be afraid to ask your doctor. Having a well-defined understanding of what you will or might experience allows you to be better prepared and can even ease your mind.

    Plan for the Worst Outcome…

    Along with knowing what could possibly come of your scan, creating a strategy for the worst case scenario can improve your sense of control. By no means should this be perceived as giving up or being resigning yourself to bad news. Cancer can make you feel powerless, but creating a basic action plan just in case can help  you regain your power as well as your optimism.

    …but Visualise the Best

    Your mind is more powerful than you might realise. Visualisation and guided imagery have been shown to improve your mood, control symptoms or side effects and even boost your immune system. Imagine yourself receiving great news after your scan. Allow yourself to experience the feelings of relief, gratitude and elation. Think about these things as though you are remembering them. Seeing it in your mind’s eye can give you the encouragement you need to overcome your scanxiety.

    Mike (Thehighlander)

    It always seems impossible until its done - Nelson Mandela

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  • Thank you for your positive words they really helped. I'm so pleased you are now signed off from the hospital.

  • Incredibly powerful thank you for sharing your story and the wonderful information.