Google ‘scanxiety’ and you’ll quickly see that the anxiety people feel before, during and after cancers scans or appointments is more or less universal.
As someone who, four years after successful cervical cancer surgery, experiences scanxiety before, during and after every vaguely medical appointment (yes, even an unrelated trip to the dentist or optician will trigger it!), I know it’s a very real experience and can be hard for others to understand. This explanation resonates:
“People often don’t realise there is a difference between General Anxiety and scanxiety. For those of us with Scanxiety. it’s not just about what might happen. It’s about what did happen. It’s about remembering.”
Over time you do develop ways of coping though, and it’s interesting to see the range of techniques that work for people.
Not long ago we did some digging online to see what ideas local cancer support services and national charities are sharing and a Twitter shout-out to ask our followers for their top tips.
There’s some great advice out there on the different cancer support websites: a lovely personal story on Breast Cancer Now; and some good tips on The Brain Tumour Charity site. If you like a podcast then Shine Cancer Support has a series called Not Your Grandma’s Cancer Show, with an episode on scanxiety.
Meanwhile, here some of my favourite snippets of advice; hopefully there’s something in this list for everyone.
Binge watch episodes of your favourite box set. Dig into a great book and get lost in the story. Go somewhere fun that you have never been before. Do something that will keep your mind busy thinking about anything but that appointment or results.
Crank up the radio! Blast 80s music. Belt out some show tunes. Mosh to your favourite rock track. Blast your favourite aria. It’s hard to feel anxious while singing, so enjoy some musical stress relief.
Somehow saying how you’re feeling out loud can make it more manageable for yourself and those around you. Confide in your partner, best friend, counsellor – or even talk out loud to yourself – tell that person that you’re worried. Articulating a fear can make it seem less scary.
Help Someone Else Out
Sometimes, the best way to relieve your own stress is to help out someone else who is struggling. Help a neighbour, talk to a friend in need, shift the focus off of yourself for a while. It can be refreshing to worry about someone else for a change and often it can also help you process your own feelings.
Spend time with your favourite people and plan something nice for after your appointment – an outing for cake or wine, is my go-to treat. For me, it’s about having something to look forward and not feeling alone. Our friend, Chris Lewis, who amongst many other things, runs free simcard charity, Simpal, agrees with this one.
Remember, you’ve got this.
Remember who you are, that you’re more than these appointments, not just someone being scanned or prodded. One of Shine’s supporters, Marbellys, does this by getting out all of her running medals and remembering her resilience that way.