Now Reading:
Scanxiety is Real! How to Cope
What to Expect

Scanxiety is Real! How to Cope

What to Expect


Aidan Morris

My first scan was 5 days after I was diagnosed. My biopsy had come back with the most severe rating in every category. When I asked my oncologist how quickly the cancer was growing, he said he had only seen higher numbers (read “spreading faster”) a few times in his career. I don’t think I need to tell you that my first thought upon hearing this was “has this spread to other parts of my body?” The only way to know? A scan.

The scan itself (an MRI) was relatively painless – an IV and being still in a confined space is not my idea of a good time, but doable. The painful part? Waiting. After the scan, a radiologist reviews your imaging and documents their findings. This can take hours or days. When waiting for those results, my mind was chaotic. Full of fear, anxiety, anger, sadness. I was waiting on news that was going to dictate if I would live or die. This my friends, is scanxiety: the fear, anxiousness and worry around an upcoming scan or scan results. Even when you feel good, having a scan on the books brings back these old, familiar feelings.

These past few years I have had all the scans: MRIs, CAT, PET, bone density. And, I have had all the feelings. As part of my follow-up care I get a PET scan every 6 months. I feel very fortunate to be monitored so closely. Nothing beats hearing “no evidence of disease,” but that peace of mind comes at a price. The double edge of that sword - scanxiety.

I would like to tell you that my scanxiety is a thing of the past, but that is not the case. I feel like thinking I'm "out of the woods" is almost like jinxing myself. Instead, I have learned how to curb or redirect those uncomfortable feelings and have boiled them down:

Find your routine

The unknown is hard for our human brains. It reminds us how out of control we are. I like to establish a routine to remind myself of the things I CAN control. It helps me stay positive, focused, and redirects my nervous energy.

  • I go on a detox cleanse 3 days before my scan focusing on anti-inflammatory fruits, vegetables and proteins. I don’t want any unnecessary false alarms. I’ve had those. They aren’t fun.
  • I wear the same outfit every time. My “lucky” outfit down to the shoes my sister gifted me that have “Good Vibes” etched on them.
Set yourself up for success
  • Make your appointment first thing in the morning. The odds of getting your results back same day increase greatly. Additionally, if it’s a PET scan you are required to fast. Make it easy on yourself by sleeping through your fasting window.
  • Don’t schedule a scan on a Friday or before a long weekend/holiday. It’s more likely there will be delays due to vacation or backlog.
Be Proactive

No one cares about your health like you do. Respectfully find a way to engage with your doctor or care team about an upcoming or recently completed scan.

  • As soon as I get in my car after a scan, I email my oncologist’s assistant. I let her know I just had a scan and that I would appreciate her letting me know right when the results come in.
  • If you are having trouble getting ahold of anyone at your doctor’s office, be sure to check your MyChart. MyChart is an online portal (they have a great app!) that many doctors and medical facilities use. If they use MyChart, and you have the app on your phone or portal on your computer, you will get the results from your scan right when your doctor does. It’s also a repository for all your medical and your health appointments, records, and results.  If they do leverage MyChart, download it and go to Login → Test Results. You can get an automatic alert when anything new is posted in your chart.

Each scan gets a little bit easier. Hang in there. Your scanxiety is normal – and the reassurance is worth it.

Related Stories