Psychiatry News and Blog


Scanxiety can be defined as the fear and worry that is associated with imaging, that happens before and after a test is done. Scanxiety tends to last until the patients is made aware of the results. Cancer survivor, Bruce Feiler said in a Time magazine column; that scans were like revolving doors, an emotional roulette wheel that spins us around for a couple of days and then spits us out on the other side. If you land on red then you are bound for another Cancerland trip and if you land on black you will have a bit more freedom.

The word Scanxiety is usually used when referring to cancer diagnosis, treatment and also imaging testing. However, scanxiety can also occur with testing of other diseases. The origin of this type of anxiety is said to be related to the fact that test results are so uncertain and also the time between the test date and the results date. Most patients have reported increased levels of their anxiety when the waiting periods are longer.

The obvious way to get rid of scanxiety would be for results to be immediate, but tests generally require a qualified individual to interpret them and further explain the implications. In the event that scans do not show any evidence of diseases or shows that blood tests are within the normal limits, phone calls to patients are easy to make. This is obviously not the case when there are abnormal blood results and or diseases are indicated, in such circumstances face to face consultations are required.

In an attempt to reduce scanxiety, some oncology practices will schedule their patients for a clinic visit and then on the same day, a scan or test is performed. This is usually successful when the imaging and laboratory departments and the oncology providers have collaborated. When patients have scans, or get tests done in their hometowns need to be told that there is a likelihood that the test results will not be available on the same day. They should also be advised to call their oncology providers to get their results instead of waiting for a call.

It is advisable that every oncology facility have set procedures in place that reduce the likelihood of patients falling through the cracks and not be followed up. Which usually happens when return calls to patients go unanswered, which then results in “phone tag” which is frustrating for patients and also healthcare providers. After-hour calls are generally challenging because generally they are made or received on personal cellphone. An option would be to block and or hide personal cellphone numbers, which could backfire as some patients do not answer unknown numbers. A second option would be to suggest the Doximity Dialer app that allows healthcare providers to call patients freely without the risk of revealing their cellphone numbers. The patients will see either an office number or clinic number. This app lets healthcare providers contact their patients on any US number and also choose the caller ID the patients sees and also send return calls to the office or clinic.

Another way to reduce scanxiety is Cognitive-behavioural therapy which could help in handling the thoughts as the base of the anxiety. It also helps by examining the possible outcomes which then results in a decrease in all or nothing or catastrophic thinking that then reduces anxiety. At the end of the day there are numerous ways in which to help patients reduce scanxiety and deal with the effects.

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