As a member of the Psychosocial Oncology Advisory Panel of Cancer.Net I received an e-mail announcing Dr. Lidia Schapira as the new Editor in Chief. The announcement included several of her podcasts but the one that caught my eye was on “Coping with Scanxiety.” Actually, there were countless times as the resident medical humanist when I documented the patients experience of waiting for results of their scans. The word scananxiety would not be lost on any patient or loved one.
I will never forget overhearing a receptionist on the phone at the front desk of the cancer center in which I worked. “I don’t know when the doctor will have the results of your scans,” she said, “but I will let her know that you called.” I could hear the toll in her voice from having to repeat this response so often.
The difference between feeling ignored and being cared for is a matter of a few words. I remember asking myself, “What would I want to hear if I was a patient.”
What came to mind was, “Not soon enough.” I offered my suggestion.
I’m not sure that my suggestion would have done much to lessen that patient’s anxiety but it would have conveyed empathy and help normalize the experience. It turned out that it helped the receptionist feel better using those words. Perhaps, when the medical staff are asked when the results of the scans will be available they could say, “Not soon enough.” Waiting for results is a shared scanxiety for both doctor and patient.
Here’s the link to Dr. Schapira’s podcast Coping with “Scanxiety” in which she offers her suggestions.