8 Tips To Overcome Scanxiety With Lupus
Last updated: April 2023
Dealing with lupus, we have a team of doctors we see frequently. We have multiple labs and urinalyses, and some even have follow-up scans. Lupus can attack any part of the body, so sometimes our doctors have to order X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, Pet/CT scans, mammograms, and ultrasounds. Many patients experience scanxiety, a common feeling of stress or worry that occurs before, during, and after a scan. Dealing with chronic issues, we tend to be on edge because we don't know the outcome. No one ever wants bad results.
Early symptoms and anxiety
One of my early symptoms with lupus was shortness of breath, chest pains, and pleural effusion, so I see a pulmonologist every few months. Since lupus has affected my lungs, I have to do follow-up chest CT scans or chest X-rays. For me, the X-ray/scan itself isn't so bad. Both are usually completed within minutes, but waiting for the test results and the talk with my doctors is nerve-wracking.
I am constantly checking to see if my results came out. Then once the results come out, I try to analyze and interpret them. My mind usually is racing, thinking about the what ifs. The call or visit to my doctor usually puts my mind at ease.
Tips to overcome scanxiety
Here are some of my tips on how to overcome scanxiety:
Schedule your appointment early in the day
I like to plan things early in the day. That way, the most dreadful part of your day is over. The scan is complete, and you can focus on other things. You can return to work, run errands or do something fun.
Plan something fun after your appointment
Now that the scan is done, you can plan something fun to distract yourself. This could be a brunch date, a shopping spree, or getting a facial or manicure. The possibilities are endless.
Try to stay present in the moment
I know it’s easier said than done. But worrying about the unknown is not going to change anything. So try to focus on what is occurring now.
Confirm how results will be received
Talk to your care team and determine how you will get your results. Do you have to schedule a followup visit? Will your doctors call you? Will your doctors communicate the results to the rest of your care team? Knowing what to expect will help prepare and ease your mind.
List out questions you want to ask
Some people might get a scan for the first time and not know what to expect. Ask the questions before your appointment and even the day of. You want to be as prepared as possible. Understand why the scan is being done, how it is being done, if there is any preparation needed on your part, there is any contrast.
Join a support group
Sometimes you might want to have someone who has done this. A support group is a great way to find someone who can answer any questions you have on a patient level. They can offer support in other ways that your care team cannot.
Learn relaxation techniques
Try learning deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga. Sometimes, it takes a few minutes for your mind and body to calibrate.
Bring a loved one to your appointment
Bringing a spouse, parent, or friend is another great way to ease your mind. Your loved one can help and support you throughout your appointment. They can hold your hand in the waiting room and you can discuss with them what occurred afterward.
How do you overcome scanxiety?
Have there been things you have learned along your lupus journey that you wish had been explained to you by a healthcare provider earlier?