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Scanxiety: The Fear and Uncertainty of Cancer Scans

Scan + Anxiety = Scanxiety

And this is what so many cancer patients feel before, during, and after each scan (MRI, CT, etc).

Whether it’s a scan for active cancer or surveillance, each one contains so many what-ifs.

I remember my first scan after four rounds of chemo. I was praying SO hard that there was improvement. I needed to know that the chemo that was killing my body was killing the cancer. Otherwise, it probably would’ve been game over. They needed to shrink the tumor to make surgery possible.

Laying there with the CT machine hovering above my thorax, I cried out to God for a miracle. And while it wasn’t the miracle I wanted, the tumor had shrunk by about 50 percent. Ever since, each scan that I’ve had has been better than the last. So far.

You may notice I straddle a fine line of being hopeful and negative – I call myself a realist most days.

To combat some of the scanxiety, we try to turn a scan day at Moffitt into a unique trip. We’ve done this for the last two scans and it works much better than staying at the hotel we stayed at throughout my treatment since there is some PTSD associated with that particular hotel.

You can watch a bit of my feelings about scanxiety and my surveillance scan experience here:

I am very thankful to get my results a couple of hours after my scan. Some patients have to wait a few days, a week, or more for their results.

And even though I received great news, I stuff the scanxiety down just below the surface, ready for next time. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’ll ever be scanxiety-free, even if I get through 5 years of good news. Even a routine doctor’s visit comes with a new sense of nervousness now.

Other than what you see when you Google “scanxiety tips,” I don’t have anything mind-blowing or revolutionary on how to deal with it. It’s very much like going through cancer treatment in general. Take it one day at a time, one minute at a time, one second at a time. And pray. If you don’t feel like praying, ask someone else to.

I met another patient outside the scan room during this particular scan (that wasn’t possible before because of COVID). He had an incredible story of his own. He had a scan before me, and when he got up to go into the room, he said, “I’ll keep you in my prayers.” I told him I would do the same.


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Anyone who has been touched by cancer should know that they are not alone and that there are others who have experienced similar challenges.

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