To answer the question bluntly: yes, cancer survivors will need certain follow-up imaging services, at least for a period of time. But anyone who has lived through cancer knows that survivorship comes with other obstacles, outside of more appointments to worry about.
Here’s a look at why more imaging services is necessary once treatment is complete, along with some healthy options for coping with the “scanxiety” many cancer survivors may feel.
Follow-Up Care is Important for Cancer Survivors
Follow-up care is an essential part of cancer survivorship, and commonly includes further imaging scans or blood work to monitor your health. This regimen is particularly important to search for signs of recurrence, and manage any long-term side effects from your treatment.
Your healthcare team will work with you to create an individualized follow-up plan once you complete cancer treatment. What’s involved in this plan will depend on many factors, including the kind of cancer you’ve survived, what stage it was in, your current health, and the type of treatment you received. Mammography’s, MRIs, or CT scans are examples of some of the follow-up imaging that may be a part of this regimen.
“In general,” the Cleveland Clinic advises, “people return to the doctor for follow-up appointments every 3 to 4 months during the first 2 to 3 years after treatment, and once or twice a year after that.”
Survivorship Mental & Physical Health
Being a cancer survivor means imaging tests will be an inevitable part of your routine for some time after your cancer treatment ends. Each one may trigger valid fears. These feelings of nervousness prior to undergoing an imaging procedure, or while waiting for results, is so common among survivors that it has a name: scanxiety.
But beyond scanxiety fears around the uncertainty of imaging tests, cancer survivors in general are also more likely to experience symptoms of PTSD, or have an increased sense of fear and unease regarding recurrence.
It’s very important therefore to nurture your mental health during this time. Consider the following options for managing scanxiety or any other distressing emotions:
- Recognize your feelings and talk about them with a trusted friend and/or family member.
- Speak with a mental health professional, particularly one that specializes in working with oncology patients.
- Attend a support group with other cancer survivors.
- Be aware and informed by having honest conversations with your healthcare team. They may weed out recurring cancer worries by helping you know exactly what symptoms to look out for.
- Stay on top of your follow-up care plan.
- Recognize signs of scanxiety in your body to help mitigate them.
- Engage in a healthy, positive mindset while validating negative emotions.
- Nourish your body after it has lived through a traumatic experience.
- Participate in gentle physical activities without pushing yourself.
- Eat an abundance of healthy, nutritious foods, and avoid toxins including alcohol and tobacco.
- Ensure a restorative sleep schedule, which is an important part of the healing process.
Our experienced technologists understand all feelings of anxiety that come with yearly imaging procedures for all our patients — particularly cancer survivors. We’ll address any questions you have about your upcoming imaging scan and will make you as comfortable as possible. To request an appointment, visit our website or give us a call at (540) 321-3190.