How to Cope With Scanxiety: 6 Tips

If you’re feeling nervous about going in for a medical scan, you’re not alone. The anticipation of medical tests can put worrisome thoughts into our minds and give us great amounts of anxiety. These feelings of anxiety and apprehension before imaging scans are commonly known as scanxiety. Our friends and family may also express worry about our upcoming scan, and feelings of uncertainty can put everyone on edge. 

It’s perfectly normal and valid to feel scanxiety. Whether you’re going in for a first screening or a follow-up scan, there are many ways to cope with it. 

We asked our CaringBridge community for their best tips to soothe any scanxiety you might be experiencing. We hope these compassionate ideas will help alleviate any feelings that may arise about your next scan.

1. Prayers, Meditations, & Positive Self-Talk

Pictured above is Bernie Goldblatt and loved ones, whose story is part of the CaringBridge How We Heal Series.

Prayer is an uplifting act that helps you ask for compassion and assistance. Before your scan, say a prayer and trust in the process. 

Meditation is also helpful. Meditation encourages theta and delta brain waves, which are associated with relaxation and wakeful rest. Consider trying 5-10 minutes of meditation before your appointment, such as trying a guided meditation or simply focusing on your breathing. 

You can add positive affirmations to your meditation and prayers, or say them on the way to your appointment. Affirmations can lower your cortisol levels, which is your stress hormone.

“Prayer. Believe that God is with me…I give the burden to Him….and then I go about enjoying my day! It works. Be happy! Enjoy each and every day.”

Susan R. 

“Prayers, faith, and a positive attitude no matter how bad things get! Never give up the fight!”

Maryanna T. 

2. Talk to Others Who Have Been There

Before your scan, consider reaching out to others who have been through a similar experience. You can find comfort in hearing about how family and friends worked through their scanxiety.

When talking to others, feel free to ask questions about the process and their personal experience. You may feel better prepared after having an idea of what to expect.

“Family, especially my husband, brother, sister & in-laws. Friends, coworkers who have been there already.”

Sue S.N. 

3. Trust Your Strength 

Pictured above is Cat Thisius, whose story is part of the CaringBridge How We Heal Series.

Nobody’s life is without obstacles. You’ve probably had to overcome challenges and tough situations in the past. Think back to those challenges and remember that you worked through them, even when they were extremely difficult. 

You will do the same in this situation. Trust that you’ll find the courage and strength to cope with your scan and its results. Just like the previous experiences, you’ll also figure out your next steps. Remember that you can rely on yourself. 

“Trust, Faith and Acceptance. I focus also on my past resiliency and strength of others with cancer.”

Karrie M. 

4. Find Moments of Quiet & Peace 

Allowing yourself quiet time without distractions can calm your mind and body. Engage in a peaceful activity or hobby that brings you peace. Turn off your devices for a while and give your mind a break. Read a book, engage in a creative activity or try meditation.

Getting out in nature can help you connect with your body and ease your stress as well. Consider going for a walk or simply laying in the grass and gazing at the clouds. Disconnect with the world and allow yourself to process your thoughts and emotions.

“Scanxiety is almost worse than knowing the actual diagnosis. It’s so easy to slip into worst-case scenario mode with these tests and procedures. Knitting on my front porch somehow seemed to be my only brief escape from this stress.” 

Tammy B. 

5. Picture Your Happy Place 

Before your scan, try creating in your mind a peaceful, joyous environment. Imagine your ideal vacation spot, such as a beach full of pink sand or a waterfall in a lush forest. Perhaps you find joy in amusement parks or ice skating with your kids. 

Formulate these images in your mind and immerse yourself in every part of it. Imagine the sounds, smells and feelings you receive in these places. Focusing on your happy place will help you maintain a sense of peace and comfort during your scan.

“Yoga breathing and imagining happy places during ultrasounds, FNA (biopsy) and scans.”

Tammy B.

6. Connect With Loved Ones

Pictured above is the Martinez family, whose story is part of the CaringBridge How We Heal Series.

Scanxiety can be a very lonely feeling. Connecting with loved ones during vulnerable moments like this for encouragement, strength and support is important in combating those feelings of isolation.  

Even if your loved ones aren’t physically nearby, it doesn’t mean they can’t offer their support. The CaringBridge Journal is a great resource not only for you to post updates, but also for your friends and family members to leave uplifting messages and provide light during dark moments.

 Additionally, releasing those anxious thoughts by writing in your CaringBridge Journal can be a helpful part of the process. You have the ability to keep your updates private or make them public, whatever feels right to you. 

“Having people pray for me & leaning on His word.”

Cathy G. 

How Do You Channel Inner-Strength? 

The possibility of a serious diagnosis can be overwhelming. During this time, remember to be compassionate with yourself and reach out to others. The power of a loving community can pull us through the dark times and help us move forward with strength. 

If you’ve ever dealt with scanxiety or any health issue, we’d love to know how you’ve summoned your courage. Comment below to share with our CaringBridge community the ways you’ve handled tough situations and channeled your inner strength.

  • Patty Morris

    I visualize that the scan is a source to assist with my knowledge to help solve the medical problem.. The unknown is more frightening than the known , and in all reality the scan is a friend.
    I also realize that tomorrow at this time the procedure will be over and I will be able to face the issue and move forward in positivity and faith to solve the problem.

  • Julie Dresner

    I have had many scans. They used to really scare me. I thought of them as a “fortune-Teller’ machine. telling me my future , either good news or not so good.
    I sometimes take a Xanax to keep me calm but I seem to be getting better as time goes on.
    Meditation also helps a lot

  • Liz

    What a great article. I already do the meditation. Found the other tips very useful. Thank you ♥️💞😊

  • Allison Brothers

    Great article. Thank you. Hugs !!

  • Laurie Jones

    Channeling Inner-Strength was constant and life saving for me. & was my survival skill! For me, I chose to reframe the way I thought about things. For example, Prior to my 1st infusion, I had met with a small group of the newly dx. It was emotionally difficult and full of anxiety and tears. The RN facilitating it was incredibly comforting. I viewed her as mother earth wrapping her arms to comfort me. It was that vision/image is what I held onto during my treatment. On my 1st day of infusion, she was my nurse, clearly the universe looking out for me! It was what I needed. Another way I took charge I requested Tuesday as my treatment and referred to it as “Ta Ta Tuesday” always brought a smile from others. Bottom line, for me it was a constant reframing from looking at the worst to turning it around to something good no matter how big or small the reframe.

  • Mary Kathleen R

    3 months ago I had surgery (and many scans!) to remove a large tumor from my brain. There were several strategies that I found super helpful in reducing my anxiety and stress- including (1) meditation (try the free version of the app Insight Timer); (2) seeking the help of a therapist to prepare me for the surgery and to develop a plan for how I wanted to navigate the surgery and recovery process; (3) reading several books- including “How to Prepare for Surgery and Heal Faster” and “Close to the Bone”. and (4) reaching out to friends and family via CaringBridge to share my story and ask for their prayers, love and support. It made all the difference- and was so humbling- to know how many people were holding me in their hearts and prayers.

    Going into surgery, I relied on focusing on an image of my beloved deceased grandma meeting me in her kitchen with a warm embrace, holding my hand, and leading me to a peaceful and quiet spot in her backyard. That is where I “stayed” during the 13-hour surgery 🙂

    Finally, a friend shared with me a verse: (Philippians 4.6- 7 NIV) that I used to let go of anxiety in the months, weeks, and minutes before surgery- and it truly had a super calming effect for me before the anesthesia kicked in: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

    Wishing peace, calm, love, and support to all those experiencing health challenges of any kind.

  • Leslie H.

    My husband has had many scans and is unable to take meds to relax himself. As a result he has found that quietly playing a round of golf in his head does the trick. When he completes the scan I usually ask what course he played and how many holes he got in. This could be adapted to a great number of sports or activities. Whatever works.

  • She'll Bell

    When I was 12 my grandpa passed from cancer at 13 my best friend passed from cancer at 19 my cousin passed from cancer. They all had a common thread, ” keep putting one foot ahead of the other”. So, Shannon, while that part at the start of my comments wasn’t very nice, I just wanted you to know keep going cause you have always been able to” keep putting one foot ahead of the other “. I Love You ❤️😘