Scanxiety when you have secondary breast cancer

11/8/20231 min read

One of the things that crops up a lot when I have spoken to other ladies with the same diagnosis is “Scanxiety”: the crippling anxiety that accompanies the many, many scans that secondary breast cancer patients have to have.

I have regular full body MRI scans - every three to four months. I then have to wait anywhere from two to six weeks for the results of these scans.

Each time the big questions are:

  • Has the cancer grown?

  • Has the cancer spread anywhere else?

  • Have any of the mets (cancery bits*) shrunk?

    *possibly not the official, documented scientific definition

I am “lucky” in the sense that I don’t really have any symptoms yet of the cancer itself (all my fatigue, pain etc. comes as side effects of the treatment) so without a massive magnetic scanning machine, I have no way of knowing what’s going on inside. I try to be quite blasé about scan results but truthfully, the wait is absolutely agonising. Knowing that a few miles down the road there are images of inside my body that nobody has looked at and reported on yet (and therefore not fed back to me) is really difficult. My last MRI was on 31st October and I am booked in for my results next week. I don’t like to be pessimistic but I’m pretty sure they won’t be back.

I am in a couple of groups on Facebook for people with secondary breast cancer (Stage 4 Deserves More and 2nds Together, by Make Seconds Count) and scanxiety is a common theme. It’s a funny one because there is nothing that can be changed and apart from taking our medication, there is very little we can do but this bloody waiting for results can be torturous. I used to be a very positive person but since finding the Mothership last summer my optimism has diminished slightly, although not as much as one might think. I asked my Oncologist on my very first appointment what I can do. “Be positive” was his reply and therefore that is what I try to be.