Living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) means you’ll need to undergo regular tests and scans to monitor your condition.
These situations can cause emotional unease. The term “scanxiety” refers to the anxiety that occurs in the days surrounding these events.
There are many reasons you may feel anxiety due to scans or tests for MBC. You may:
- be prone to focusing on the worst-case outcome or worry about the unknown
- be unable to think about anything but the calendar date of your next scan
- find the actual test or scan uncomfortable
- feel anxious waiting for your doctor to share your results, which may take a few days
While you can’t avoid the tests and scans needed to measure your condition or the uncertainty that may surround your results, there are ways you can help ease your anxiety.
You may find it useful to reframe the reason that you need to undergo anxiety-inducing tests and scans. While they may be unpleasant, their results will help your medical team treat your MBC.
You may find out that what you’re doing is slowing the progression of the condition or that you need a different treatment to help you feel better.
There are many practices that can help you relax and ease your anxiety. Meditation, breathing exercises, and listening to calming music may help your emotional state.
Meditation is the practice of slowing down and focusing on the present moment, your body, a single thought, or a mantra. Meditation may take practice.
You can learn how to meditate from:
- a professional
- written resources
- online resources
- an application on your smartphone
Meditating may help you:
- eliminate your stress
- manage your overall mood
Yoga and tai chi combine breathing practices with slow movements to calm your emotional state and get some exercise in.
You may want to take a yoga or tai chi class taught by a professional instructor as you begin your practice. There are many apps and videos available online, too, if you’d prefer to practice at home.
Listening to music can also calm you. Make a playlist, play an album, or flip on a radio station that features music that you like.
You can rely on this for comfort when you’re:
- traveling to a medical facility for the test or scan
- sitting in a medical office
- waiting for results
Journaling may help you touch base with your emotions. It can also help you keep track of your journey with MBC.
You can focus your journal entries on positive feelings and make it a gratitude journal, or you can document your worries.
You can even keep the format open and use bullet points or drawings to illustrate your feelings.
Your journal can be a physical book that you write in. Another option is to write in an online blog or word processing application.
Connect with friends and family as your appointments for your tests and scans approach. Talk through your emotions or schedule something fun. This can distract you from your worries and help combat anxiety.
You may find a few phone check-ins or a meal out with someone makes you feel better. Keep in touch with several people to stay connected and share your thoughts.
There are a few ways to make your appointments less worrisome. Distract yourself while you wait for the test or scan with:
- a good book
- a favorite game on your smartphone
- pleasurable music
Also, consider bringing a close friend or family member to sit with you during the scan. They can listen to and write down any instructions you receive on the day of your appointment.
You may find it beneficial to connect with others with MBC to share your feelings. Support groups can be helpful to talk about emotions like anxiety in an open and caring environment.
You may even find people with similar experiences to yours who can share helpful advice about particular tests, scans, and treatments.
You can participate with in-person support groups that are local to you. Another way to connect is through an online support group.
You may be unable to calm your anxiety on your own. If so, seek out a professional to help you through these emotions.
These professionals include:
- licensed social workers
It may be useful to find someone who works with people with MBC or other forms of cancer to make the experience truly beneficial.
You may find that your “scanxiety” is just one aspect of anxiety or other elevated emotions you experience as you navigate MBC.
A mental health professional can recommend treatments that help with conditions like anxiety or depression.
There are several ways to calm anxiety that surrounds tests or scans for MBC. You can try methods like meditation and yoga on your own. Or, you can seek various forms of support to ease your mind.