What is Cancer-xiety?

Have you ever heard the phrase scanxiety? Cancer patients know too well how the period of time leading up to scans, up until results are received, can cause anxiety.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Anxiety disorder due to a medical condition includes symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are directly caused by a physical health problem.” This means that the worry and fear of cancer patients is a real thing!

Some of the symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

I believe that Cancer-xiety is a concern or worry with daily and significant events related specifically to a cancer diagnosis. 

Some of these triggers of cancer-xiety might be:

  • Bloodwork, or tests, such as an MRI. These can make you anxious, before, during and after. This may be due to not only the anticipation of results, but also being uncomfortable during the test itself and knowing that if something shows up in the results it can lead to more tests.
  • Change in oncologists. Cancer patients rely on their oncologists to help them make decisions that can impact their mortality, and that relationship is important.
  • Oncology appointments can bring test results, and perhaps, a change in treatment. Any results, or change in medications, or the frequency of check ups, reinforces the fact that much is out of control for the cancer patient.
  • Medications all come with side effects and can cause some of the same symptoms as anxiety, such as fatigue and sleep disturbance, which leads to a physical and emotional toll on the patient.
  • Cancer-versaries, or the big dates, such as your diagnosis date or a surgery date can bring difficult emotions back to the surface.

Why do I think this is so significant for cancer patients?

Cancer patients have a heightened awareness that you can easily be that 1 in 8 (or whatever statistic associated with developing a particular cancer). Truth bomb…some of us were diagnosed without any symptoms. We KNOW that you can be going through life feeling fine and then be thrust into appointments and treatments, and forced to face your mortality.

It is a heightened awareness of the unknown AND knowing some things are beyond our control.  We know what those treatments feel like, so while the cancer-xiety may seem like out-of-proportion emotions, it’s based on real trauma. That trauma sometimes makes the little voice inside your head tell you that every ache is the cancer coming back, and THAT is cancer-xiety. 

I’ve developed strategies to help me persevere through the trigger events and give an over view of these strategies in my YouTube video: Persevering Through Cancer-xiety and I invite you to check it out to learn more.