Person going into MRI or CAT scan

Preparing for Scans Physically and Emotionally

I think it's safe to say that almost everyone's top fear when they live with metastatic breast cancer is the fear of recurrence. We undergo the therapies, take the drugs, and get the routine scans to make sure that the cancer is not coming back. Sometimes, folks experience a long period without any recurrence, and sometimes, folks don't get a break at all. This disease is a vicious one and one that is always lurking over our shoulders.

What does scanxiety mean?

Scanxiety is a term used to describe the emotions, nervousness, fear, and anxiety that come with getting regular scans. After I get new scans, I constantly check the chart for results, wait for a phone call from my doctor, and hope nothing concerning or new comes up in the results.

I hate to say I'm "lucky" because living with this metastatic breast cancer certainly does not make me lucky in the slightest. I do thank my lucky stars pretty frequently, however, because I have experienced almost 4 years without a drastic change in treatment. There's been some radiation and some dates with Faslodex. I've had breaks in chemo, some of them scheduled and some of them not.

A chemo break and a new scan

I had surgery at the end of 2023. I knew there would be a chemo break, but due to my surgery being rescheduled to 2 weeks later than we had planned, it was much longer than I anticipated. This most recent scan was critical, and after some hiccups at the clinic, I finally got it. I knew that there would be some spots that lit up on the scan, but reading and hearing about them are so different than simply expecting them.

Usually, when I have a scan on the calendar, I have a protocol that helps my nervous system. It's been tricky at this clinic because I don't always have my wife with me. This is much different than it was when we were living in Seattle. My wife attended every appointment with me, and we were a team regarding my care. This scan came up, and I didn't prepare as usual. I didn't take my anti-anxiety medication beforehand. I didn't take precautions to protect myself as I should have, and these results hit me hard.

How I prepare for scans

Some of the things that help me when a scan appointment approaches might not be helpful for everyone, but here are some ways I prepare:

  • Taking a prescription before scans
  • Fueling my body with nutritious foods
  • Hydrating my body well

I do not like working with a technician at the clinic, and I have that noted in my chart. This helps avoid any unnecessary stress when getting my scan. I have also had bad experiences with different techs, so when I find someone I like, I stick with them.

After the scan, I try to avoid consistently checking my phone for the results. I pick 1 time in the morning and 1 in the evening to check for the results. This way, I'm not refreshing my phone a million times a day, glued to the screen.

There are many ways to prepare for scans and mitigate some of the stress that comes with them, and with waiting for the results. What are some ways you prepare for your routine scans?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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