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Scanxiety : Understanding and Coping with Medical Scan Anxiety

Anxiety touches everyone at some point in time or the other. Usually, anxiety comes and goes as casual situations arise or are resolved. However, anxiety experienced by cancer patients stays for long. Scanxiety is a word that is associated with cancer patients and their anxiety. Let us read further to learn more about Scanxiety and ways to manage it.

What is Scanxiety?

The term “Scanxiety” combines the words “scan” and “anxiety”. It has become a common term since a decade ago. Cancer patients start experiencing stress, anxiety, and uneasiness from the time they are diagnosed with their conditions. (1)

The National Behavioral Health Network has stated that about half of cancer survivors experience a certain level of anxiety. Some cancer patients might also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. (2)

For some cancer patients, anxiety escalates during the time they are due for diagnostic testing, post-treatment scans, or imaging tests. They might be worried and anxious thing what if the scans show that the cancer is getting worse.

Patients may start experiencing scanxiety:

  • In the weeks or days before a scan that has been scheduled to diagnose cancer, monitor the progress of cancer treatment, or determine whether the diseased condition has recurred.
  • In the weeks or days before learning the scan results.
  • During a scan and in the hours right before or after the scan.

Symptoms of scanxiety vary from one person to another and from different times of the testing procedures.

What Causes Scanxiety?

Several factors can cause scanxiety and/or make it worse. Some of these factors include:

  • Nervousness related to the unknown aspects of the appointment. (For instance, being worried while thinking, “Will it hurt?”, “Will I fit in the machine?”, and so on)
  • Prior bad experiences or poor outcomes.
  • Fear of hospitals, or diagnostic centers.
  • Unclear communication from the healthcare team.
  • Worries related to the test results.
  • Long waits for the test results.
  • Fear of how the test results could change their life.

NOTE: Although it is a common feeling for many, not every cancer patient experiences scanxiety.

How to Manage Scanxiety?

Anxiety can be reduced or controlled with medication. However, many patients won’t take another pill, especially if they are on chemotherapy or another treatment. So, we need to look for other ways to manage scanxiety. Below are some of them.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), especially designed to help cancer patients address their negative emotions and empower them to reduce their anxiety or stress by choosing more positive thoughts.


Psychoeducation is a strategy that combines elements of cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and education. The primary goal of psychoeducation is to provide the patient with basic knowledge related to different facets of depression and its treatment so that they can work with a mental health professional and expect a better overall outcome.

Make Your Scans Pretty Comfortable

Talk to your doctor or technician about what happens in your scans or tests so you know what to expect. You can ask for an eye cover, or a blanket, or use headphones and listen to music, which could make your scan less stressful.

Use Relaxation Techniques and Exercise

Simple relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, prayers, meditation, and exercises can calm down your heart rate and ease anxiety. Some cancer centers also provide workshops on relaxation exercises.

Receive Support from People Who Comfort You

Some people can reassure you and help you remain calm when you experience anxiety. They are your supportive people so try to spend most of the time with them. Ask them to come to you as they can ease your stress and comfort you.

Talk With Your Doctor to Know When and How You’ll Get Your Test Results

Ask your doctor to know when you can expect your test results. Also discuss with them how they would reach you, whether in a phone call, or in-person visit. If you are receiving your result in person, when can you schedule your appointment? Have a clear-cut idea of all these.

Treat Yourself With Compassion!

Cancer patients already go through a lot. If you are someone struggling with cancer and dealing with scanxiety, understand that scanxiety is a normal response. Acknowledge that it could be hard to go through, but treat yourself with compassion. It can help you a lot. Additionally, let your cancer doctors and nurses know about your scanxiety issues too.


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 19, 2024

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