A PETscan was THE deciding factor for everything that followed our diagnosis. We were told it would tell us the stage of the tumor, whether or not it had spread, and the treatment options that would be available to us.
If you’ve never had a PETscan before, you might be surprised how extensive the preparations are. Because of the nature of the test, you are not allowed to exercise, eat, or even chew gum beforehand. We were already extremely anxious for the results, so being essentially on house arrest for the day leading up to the test was torture. There are only so many Netflix shows you can distract yourself with until you’re thinking about the test again.
This was our introduction to ‘Scanxiety’. For cancer patients and their caregivers, scans can hold a huge amount of stress. Even after a person is in remission, they must go in for regular scans for YEARS before they can officially put it behind them. Not to be too dark, but for the sake of painting the picture: Tommy once told me it feels like having a gun to your head, but not knowing if it’s filled with bullets until you receive the test results.
The scan seems to hold your fate. Did the tumor shrink? Has it returned? Are lymph nodes lighting up? Will you need another round of chemo? Did the surgery work? It can be maddening. It’s not uncommon for people with cancer to develop PTSD because of this anxiety. I can absolutely see why.
What has helped us curb 'Scanxiety'?
- Schedule your tests as early as you can in the day. For some reason, not giving yourself time to worry about it beforehand helps.
- Go ahead, and schedule your follow up appointment before the test. Knowing you have a scheduled meeting with a doctor to discuss the results makes the waiting more bearable.
- Schedule your test early in the week. It may take several days for the results to develop, and waiting through a weekend should be avoided if possible.
- Request same-day results. This is not always possible, but a few of our doctors have made it possible.
- Before the test, talk to each other about your expectations. You may find talking about the various positive or negative outcomes can help prepare your mind for the possibilities.
- You have to laugh. Anything you can do to keep the days leading up to it light will make a difference.
There is going to be anxiety. The key is to not let it get on top of you. You have the upper hand. You have the ability to tell yourself everything will be okay. There's a good chance everything will be, so why waste time worrying?