Navigating Scanxiety: A Guide for Patients and Caregivers

Scanxiety is the apprehension or fear cancer patients may feel surrounding medical scans. It can occur with the thought of a scan, the anticipation before getting a scan, undergoing the scan itself, right after a scan, and waiting for scan results.

No one likes experiencing anxiety or worry, especially in such an already challenging time.

Thankfully, there are many options that you can do by yourself, with loved ones, and with further help from therapists and support groups.

Strategies You Can Do By Yourself

There are several options you can do to help combat scanxiety, and you can start any of these now if you’d like!

They include:

Learn About the Scan
There are many different kinds of medical scans. Learning more about them and knowing what to expect can help relieve scanxiety. Good sources include medical professionals and credible online resources like the Mayo Clinic and WebMD. You can learn what to expect before, during,
and after scans like X-rays, CT/CAT scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs.

Find Distractions
Distraction isn’t always a bad thing. Used appropriately, it’s essential to maintaining mental wellness.

● Tap Into Your Artistic Side: Art is a great distraction, whether creating or consuming it.  You can head to your local art supply store, buy some paints, brushes, and a canvas,
and start painting. Maybe take up knitting and create a hat. You can also walk through that art museum you’ve wanted to check out.

● Glue Your Eyes to a Screen: Rent a nice movie from the comfort of your home or binge-watch a favorite TV show you haven’t seen for years.

● Get Moving: Go out for a walk, join a yoga or dance class, or hit the gym. No matter what you choose, exercising is a great distraction. It can ease stressful thoughts by reducing cortisol (stress hormone) levels and boost mood by increasing endorphins
(feel-good hormone).

Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is focusing on the present moment. The key is to feel everything in and around you at this exact moment, not worrying about the past or the future. There are many ways to do this.  One option is to experience the moment with every sense for five minutes – taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell. Another is to sit or lie down and do a mental body scan. Start at your head and work down, seeing how every part of your body feels.

Strategies for Caregivers and Loved Ones

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. There are many thoughtful ways friends, family, and caregivers can help you:

Listen and Communicate
Caregivers, friends, and family can be good listeners and provide a safe space for you to express your feelings and concerns. Sometimes it’s hard to open up to or feel secure around
people you’re unfamiliar with, so talking to people you know and trust can go a long way.

Provide Emotional Support
Loved ones can provide emotional support by offering words of encouragement, expressing
their love and care, and being a source of positivity. They can provide comfort by being physically present or offering emotional support through phone or video calls.

Accompany You to Appointments
They can accompany you to medical appointments and scans. This can help ease anxiety and
provide a sense of security. Moral support can make all the difference before, during, and after

Help With Practical Tasks
It is easy to feel overwhelmed with daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning, or running errands. Your loved ones can offer to help with these practical tasks, which can reduce stress and allow you to focus on your recovery.

Encourage Self-Care
Friends, family, and caregivers can help by encouraging self-care, such as getting enough rest, eating nutritious meals, and engaging in physical activity. Stress and anxiety can be very taxing on mental and physical well-being, so having loved ones around to remind and guide you is important.

Help You Find Resources
They can help you find support groups, mental health services, and coping strategies for managing anxiety and stress.

Take Care of Their Own Well-Being
Caregiving can be a demanding and stressful role. It is important for loved ones to take care of their own well-being by seeking support, practicing self-care, and taking breaks when needed.
When your loved ones are well-rested and healthy, they can better support you in managing anxiety and stress.

Further Ways to Manage Scanxiety

We all need extra support sometimes, especially on a difficult journey like kidney cancer.
Reaching out for further assistance, such as therapy or a support group, can help significantly.

Therapy can help you cope with the changes and uncertainty you may be going through. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) are
popular, evidence-based therapeutic methods for anxiety.
Therapists can provide sessions in an office or remotely. Your health  insurance will likely cover therapy, but it is always best to contact your provider for coverage and therapy options.

Support Groups
Support groups can be a valuable experience. Just like therapy, meetings can take place virtually or in person. Your cancer center or hospital is likely to have resources for support
groups. You can also search online for local groups or online-only groups. The American Cancer Society has great resources.

Final Thoughts

If you or someone you know is experiencing scanxiety, please know that you are not alone. It is common to feel apprehensive or fearful surrounding medical scans, but many strategies and resources are available to help manage these feelings.
Whether it’s learning more about the scans, finding distractions, practicing mindfulness, or seeking support from loved ones, there are many ways to ease the stress and anxiety
surrounding medical scans.

If you need additional support, consider reaching out for therapy or joining a support group. Remember, it’s important to prioritize your mental and physical well-being during this
challenging time. Don’t hesitate to take the necessary steps to care for yourself and get the support you need throughout your kidney cancer journey.