Cancer Survivor: How to Prepare for Annual Scans


When you have heard the dreaded words, “you have cancer,” it is not an easy moment in your life to shake.  And, in spite of successfully completing treatment, it can be hard for many cancer survivors to move on and away from that fear of a cancer recurrence.  Luckily, life gets busy and distracts survivors, at least temporarily, from the fear of a cancer recurrence but, as any cancer survivor knows, there are things that always bring that fear back up.  One of those things is the annual scan many survivors undergo to ensure that cancer has not returned.  Many survivors complete these scans once per year, typically for 5 years, and if cancer has not returned the scans may become less frequent.  For survivors, the buildup of anxiety, memories, and fear before a scan is often overwhelming.  Mayo Clinic discusses what this fear is like for survivors, ” The researchers from Mayo Clinic and other cancer centers studied how people react emotionally during the time just prior to a surveillance scan after treatment has completed. They found that most survivors report worry and anxiety most intensely during the period just prior to their scan, peak leading up to the scan and then drop off just after the results are known. Some survivors have coined the term “scanitis” related to this worry … a real concern.”But luckily, there are coping mechanisms to help you better prepare yourself for annual scans after surviving cancer.”

The stress that comes with scans after surviving cancer is very real and nothing to be ashamed of.  In fact, the majority of survivors experience it and understandably look for ways to reduce it so that they can go about their lives.  For some patients, the anxiety and stress is so significant that it may even be diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  For this reason, if fear or anxiety feel consuming or if you just need someone to talk to about managing stress related to your cancer treatment it is wise to talk to a qualified professional about your feels an emotions so that you can begin to work through them and find strategies for coping.  One way many survivors cope with their “scanitis” or “scanxiety” is with their religious beliefs.  Prayer and faith are often a deep source of comfort, strength and peace and all of those things can be a significant aid when dealing with stress and anxiety.  Another way to combat those feelings is with positivity.  Remind yourself that the past is the past and does not necessarily influence the future.  Additionally, remind yourself that even if there is cancer found, you have beat it before and you can beat it again.  You know that while a cancer diagnosis is not ideal, it is often beatable and not a death sentence.  Surround yourself with support leading up to, during and after the scan.  Do things you enjoy, have conversations or great meals with people you love and just generally distract yourself with the best kind of distraction – your family and loved ones who care about you.  While annual scans are not fun for anyone, remind yourself that they are often just a confirmation that you are healthy and beat cancer.

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