Doctor demonstrating diagnosis and understanding scanxiety to pensive black patient in corridor of hospital.

Understanding Scanxiety: Symptoms, Causes and Coping Techniques

Written by Maven Imaging

A cancer diagnosis can result in significant anxiety. Worry can arise right from the initial diagnosis to choosing your treatment options, prognosis, and recurrence of cancer. 

Even on the path to recovery, where cancer is in remission, any new ache or hint of a possible symptom can evoke a sense of anxiety.

One such cancer-related worry is scanxiety. This article will explore how to identify scanxiety and methods to cope with it effectively.

What Does Scanxiety Mean?

Scanxiety refers to anxiety cancer patients experience before, during, or after medical scans. 

While having cancer or during the remission phase, you will frequently be required to get blood tests and scans. These are to assess the progress of cancer and help guide the next steps in treatment. 

Scans can be conducted for cancer diagnosis, to check treatment progress, or as a checkup during remission. Having the tests and waiting for the results can be nerve-wracking. There is often no defined process that can help prepare for these tests. The fear of the results can often be debilitating on its own, especially after surviving cancer.

The reality of scanxiety is highlighted in a study of over 200 participants with cancer, where almost 55% experienced scanxiety. In another survey of 103 participants with non-small cell lung cancer, almost 83% of their respondents recorded scan-associated distress.

These studies highlight the significance of scanxiety and the importance of proper treatment to alleviate its symptoms. 

What Are the Symptoms of Scanxiety?

Scanxiety is specific anxiety related to a particular incident. Some signs of scanxiety can be evident in the days leading up to the test, while others can arise during or after. Note that symptoms differ from person to person.

Psychological Scanxiety Symptoms

Common symptoms of scanxiety include the following: 

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nervousness
  • Thoughts preoccupied with scans and results
  • Irritability

Physical Scanxiety Symptoms

With scanxiety, you may notice physical signs of anxiety, such as:

  • Increased perspiration
  • Sweaty palms
  • Nausea
  • Palpitations
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness

Behavioral Scanxiety Symptoms

  • Inability to perform daily routine
  • Changes in appetite, either with a decrease in appetite or stress-eating
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep through the night

A key factor to scanxiety is that it disrupts your day-to-day functioning, limiting your general quality of life. In short, these symptoms can consume your life throughout the entirety of the scanning process. 

Scanxiety is frequently noticed among those who have previously battled cancer or have seen people around them receiving bad news about cancer. Being exposed to these scenarios heightens anxiety, especially with thoughts of getting bad news.

What Are Coping Strategies for Scanxiety?

Scans are inevitable, especially when it comes to cancer diagnosis, treatment, and checking for recurrences. Identifying scanxiety can help you find ways to deal with it, rather than letting it take over your life with constant worry and uneasiness.

1. Recognizing Your Signs of Scanxiety

Scanxiety can present in different ways. It can be a bout of nausea before receiving your results or getting irritable before walking into the testing room. In the nights leading up to a scan, you may notice increasing insomnia. 

Learning about and familiarizing yourself with the signs of scanxiety allows you to pinpoint the issue sooner. Once you know what is causing these symptoms, you can begin utilizing techniques that reduce and even eliminate them.

2. Setting Aside Time for Worry

It can be easy to wallow in the anxiety, allowing it to take over your thoughts and days. However, once you identify your signs, try to manage them productively. 

Obtrusive thinking about cancer-related scans and results will need some time to process. While this may sound counterproductive, setting aside time to worry and deal with the symptoms can prevent them from persisting throughout the day. 

There are many symptom management techniques you can utilize. Journaling allows you to document worries and let them out. Talking to someone you trust, such as a friend or therapist, is another outlet to express your emotions and remind you that you are not alone.

3. Finding Effective Ways to Deal With Anxiety

You can often reduce signs of anxiety through productive and relaxing techniques. If you notice yourself sweating or out of breath during an anxious moment, work on your breathing to calm your nerves. Evidence shows that breathwork can reduce physiological and psychological stress

Meditation to focus on breathing and thought processing is also a great way to manage scanxiety. Other stress relievers include exercising, keeping yourself busy with work, and spending time with family.

If your scans and timings are the main cause of worry, set a plan for each testing process. This can include being in charge of scheduling them to reduce wait time and discussing specific scenarios during which you are comfortable receiving the results. You can relay whether you wish to receive your results by phone, on an electronic portal, or in person. 

4. Join Support Groups

Community support groups are a great resource for dealing with anxiety and cancer. You can be among individuals who know what you are going through. It will help you recognize that you are not alone in this process and there are ways to help yourself. Support groups also provide hope, especially when you feel your outcome might be bleak.

5. Seek Professional Help 

Discussing your concerns with a psychiatrist or therapist can help with debilitating symptoms of anxiety. Thoughts of negative results and outcomes can be discussed, and practical solutions for such scenarios can be reached. 

A therapist can teach healthy coping mechanisms and prepare you for the possibility of bad news. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is also a commonly utilized and effective form of psychotherapy that can help with specific anxieties, such as scanxiety. CBT can help identify unrealistic negative thoughts and replace them with more positive ones.

To Wrap Up

The journey to discovering you have cancer and dealing with the diagnosis is not easy. The times before, during, and after each scan can lead to debilitating scanxiety symptoms, adding to the many stressors of cancer itself. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce these symptoms. 

Understanding scanxiety, being able to identify the signs, and utilizing coping techniques will help you take back the most essential parts of your life.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the original author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of Cancer Care Services nor its staff. This information provided through this site should not be used for diagnosing or treating a medical condition, nor should it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have questions about a medical condition, always seek the advice of a doctor or other qualified health professional. 


Cancer Care Services is here to help so that no one has to cope with cancer alone! We can help you find resources and will determine if you are eligible for our assistance programs, such as gas or medication assistance. We can also connect you with in-house social events. Contact us today at 817-921-0653 or fill out our online form. We look forward to helping you!

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