If you’re dreading your next scan or test, rest assured that you’re not alone. Scanxiety is a very common feeling for people whose lives have been changed by a melanoma diagnosis; sometimes, the anxiety is so overwhelming that it impacts on your daily living.
First up, know that you’re not the only one who feels this way. The truth is that scanxiety affects carers and family members too, as well as those who are diagnosed with melanoma. It’s a very real sense of dread; a fear of hearing the words “it’s spread”, or “it’s back”.
Scanxiety taps into our fear of the unknown and the unpredictable. So, manage your anxiety by focusing on aspects of your life that you CAN control. Here are 10 practical, proven tips that reduce scanxiety:
Schedule your scans for early in the morning – preferably the first appointment. This means you’ll get it over with, and reduce your possible waiting time. Plus, ask a friend or family member to go with you, for company and support.
Finally, schedule a post-scan appointment, so you have certainty around when you’ll hear results.
Surround yourself with upbeat people who put a spring in your step. Seek out their positive vibes, and avoid the ‘glass-half-empty’ people who sap your energy.
Unanswered questions can be a source of stress, but don’t turn to unreliable websites for advice. Instead, make a list of your questions, then visit a reputable website such as ours or speak to your doctor or healthcare provider.
Immerse yourself in a gripping novel, or binge-watch a new TV series. Take a day-trip and discover new places; try a new hobby. And remember to take a book or crossword puzzle along to your appointment, or perhaps download a new podcast for your iPod – you need distractions in the waiting room, too.
Exercising in the natural environment releases more feel-good hormones than indoor exercise; these hormones reduce tension, anger and depression. So, dust off your sneakers and explore a local walking track – through the park, by the river, along the beach. You’ll notice the difference.
Fresh, wholesome food boosts your energy levels, helps combat fatigue, and provides essential nutrients to strengthen your body and balance your mood. Avoid sugary snacks that leads to highs and lows.
Deep breathing is a powerful relaxation technique that provides instant stress release. It works anytime, anywhere: in bed, in a warm soothing bath, or in the waiting room. Also try massage, meditation, yoga, and listening to music – discover what works best for you, and you’ll feel more in control when you know your ‘go-to’ strategy.
Cognitive behavioural therapy can be used to identify and control unhelpful thoughts. By changing your thought patterns, you’ll feel more relaxed. Ask the MPA counsellor for advice.
Don’t feel you’ve failed if you turn to medication. Just as the body needs medicine when it’s unwell, the mind can also benefit from specific medication, in addition to supportive counselling – especially if the anxiety affects your day-to-day functioning. Speak to your doctor about the options.
It’s reassuring to know you’re not alone. Join an MPA support group (either face to face, online or telephone), or contact the MPA counsellor for support or advice about scanxiety by calling 1800 844 450.