I remember waking up the morning of my first doctor appointment after being diagnosed with breast cancer and feeling off. I was short-tempered with my loved ones and could not shake the feelings of anxiousness, worry and fear. I understood why I was having these feelings in the days leading up to my diagnosis. What I could not grasp was why I was still experiencing them, especially after what I thought was the worst, had already come true.  It turns out I was experiencing scanxiety, something common to cancer survivors.

The Cancer Treatment Centers of America describe scanxiety as “the increased level of anxiousness patients feel before, during and after a scan to diagnose cancer, monitor the progress of treatment or determine whether the cancer has recurred.” Scanxiety can occur at various times throughout a person’s cancer journey but often appears in the days (sometimes hours) leading up to an appointment.

I am still learning different ways to manage my scanxiety, and like anxiety, there is not a one size fits all solution. For me, hearing from others who are also experiencing it has been extremely helpful. It has allowed me to feel less alone. Naming my feelings has also been helpful as I am able to remind myself that what I am going through is normal and my body’s response to trauma. Additionally, I keep my loved ones informed of my upcoming scans so that they can help me cope.

My advice for anyone supporting a loved one with scanxiety is to avoid statements such as “I’m sure everything is fine and you have nothing to worry about.” While the intention behind that sentiment is good, a majority of cancer survivors have a hard time believing that as a similar thing was most likely said to us prior to being diagnosed. Instead, I recommend showing support by saying “It is normal for you to feel worried given everything you have been through. I am here for you and we are going to get through this together.”

Staff Blogger: Jennifer Smolowitz

Jennifer Smolowitz has been the Director for Suicide Prevention at the Mental Health Association in Delaware since March, 2017. Prior to taking on this role, she was a Community Educator for MHA. She oversees the agency’s suicide prevention efforts, which includes chairing the Delaware Suicide Prevention Coalition. She is a member of the coalition’s Military Subcommittee, helping plan the annual Military and Veterans Mental Health Summit. Jennifer provides both the Lifelines and QPR suicide prevention trainings to youth and adults throughout the state and is a Master Level ASIST trainer. She is also a trainer for Mental Health First Aid. Jennifer received her Masters’ degree in Public Administration from Ohio University’s Voinovich School in May, 2014.

Reference:

The Cancer Treatment Centers of America: City of Hope. (2023, February 16). Scanxiety? What         it is and how to cope with.             https://www.cancercenter.com/community/blog/2023/02/what-is-scanxiety