What is scanxiety? Scanxiety is an anxious feeling before an MRI scan that is very common among cancer patients. For some it’s the unpredictability of the results and for others it’s plainly the claustrophobic aspect.
“Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder in which the sufferer has an irrational feat of having no escape or being closed in.“ When a person experiences this they may also suffer a panic attack which results in accelerated heart rate, sweating, and nausea. Because so many patients, and especially cancer patients suffer from scanxiety, an “open MRI” machine was created with a top and bottom that do not connect. While patients are in an open MRI they have space on either side of them, which often alleviates their anxiety.
More so than claustrophobia though, the reason cancer patients experience scanxiety is mostly because of the unpredictability of the results. Imagine not knowing whether your tumor has shrunk after surgery only to get the results from an MRI showing you that the tumor has in fact grown. It can be very stressful for cancer patients who are already dealing with so much already.
Here are ten tips for coping with scanxiety.
1. Listen to loud music and let it take over your thoughts.
2. Prepare ahead of time for the worst-case scenario.
3. Meditate before a scan and keep a positive outlook.
4. Distract yourself with magazines or a book beforehand.
5. Avoid stressful situations prior to your appointment.
6. Schedule appointments for the morning so you don’t have time to sit and think.
7. Practice closing your eyes and pretending you are in an MRI machine.
8. Bring a friend along who can make you laugh.
9. Medicate, stress and anxiety are very common among people dealing with cancer. Tell your doctor about any feelings you may be having.
10. Practice deep breathing before an MRI.
Be ahead of the game, and take control of your scanxiety. You may feel like it is impossible to overcome, but by practicing any of these ten tricks above you may find some things that work for you. Most importantly, don't feel alone. If you're experiencing any of these distressing feelings, reach out to the staff at the radiology center to discuss your worries.