How to Manage Scanxiety and Fear of Lung Cancer Recurrence


Since her stage 1 lung cancer diagnosis in September 2015, Colette Smith had to undergo computerized tomography (CT) scans of the chest every six months for the next five years. Now, she needs them only once a year, but the screening is still stressful. Whenever her doctor’s office calls to schedule a scan, she starts to worry all over again.

“I have anxiety leading up to the date of the scan,” says Smith, 58, who lives in the Bronx, New York, and works as a dispute resolution manager for an insurance company. “I give myself the pep talk that I have to get the scan done.”

Soon after each scan, a radiologist interprets Smith’s images, and she sees an oncologist who gives her the results on the same day. Once it’s clear that her cancer hasn’t come back, she rewards herself by going shopping.

Smith isn’t alone in feeling anxiety related to undergoing scans that check for possible recurrence of lung cancer. The panic or dread that many survivors of lung cancer experience is often described as scan anxiety, or “scanxiety.”


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