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It is normal to feel stress and anxiety when waiting on test results. After a medical test, waiting time can range from hours to weeks. Many people say that waiting for test results is one of the most stressful parts of diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up for a serious illness.
The worry about tests and waiting for imaging test or scan results has an unofficial name — “scanxiety.”
Scan anxiety, or scanxiety, is stress about imaging tests used to find cancer or other problems. In a broader sense, the term means the worry that occurs before, during, and after any medical exam or test.
For imaging tests, radiologists must read and analyze images. A radiologist is a doctor who has special training in using imaging tests for diagnosis and treatment. The radiologist will then prepare a report. This process may take several days.
Examples of imaging tests include:
Your care provider may wait to discuss results until all test results are back. The results of one test may not provide many answers unless they are reviewed in relation to your child’s other tests. In some cases, the tests might be reviewed by a team of health care providers. Or your care team might decide that other tests are needed to make a diagnosis or rule out a disease.
Each person experiences stress and worry differently. The experience of a patient may be quite different than that of a caregiver when it comes to scan anxiety. Signs of anxiety may include:
Just like people experience worry differently, they also have different ways to cope. Below are some strategies to deal with anxiety while waiting on test results.
Sometimes, anxiety can become overwhelming and interfere with daily life and activities. If you are concerned about your or your child’s anxiety, talk to your care team. A psychologist, social worker, chaplain, or child life specialist can offer support and resources for emotional health.
Find more information on Psychology and Mental Health Services.
Reviewed: November 2023