Waiting for Imaging Test Results? 10 Ways to Reduce Anxiety and Worry

Waiting for Imaging Test Results? 10 Ways to Reduce Anxiety and Worry

One of the most challenging parts of having an imaging exam (or any medical test) is waiting for the results. It’s easy to imagine a negative outcome, and it can be challenging if you don’t know when or how you’ll get the results. Here at UVA Radiology, we want you to have the tools you need to feel calmer and more in control of your healthcare decisions. So we’ve compiled a list of 10 ways to help reduce anxiety and worry while you wait for imaging test results.

Many patients experience fear, anxiety, and worry while waiting for imaging test results. It’s a completely normal and understandable feeling. In fact, this feeling is so common that it has a name: scanxiety.

But there are ways to help yourself feel more relaxed, aware, and in control while you wait. Here at UVA Radiology and Medical Imaging, we’ve created a list of our top tips for reducing anxiety while you wait for imaging test results. Whether it’s an MRI, CT scan, x-ray, ultrasound, PET scan, biopsy, or other test, waiting for results can be one the hardest parts of the process.

10 Ways to Reduce Anxiety While Waiting for Imaging Test Results

feeling are normal

1. Remember that your feelings are normal

Waiting for imaging test results can be a significant and stressful experience. If you feel worried, anxious, or stressed, take comfort in knowing that your feelings are normal and experienced by many people. Often, questioning why we feel a certain way, or trying to fight a feeling, can make us feel worse than the actual feeling itself.

2. Don’t assume the worst

It’s easy to assume that, because your doctor ordered an imaging exam for you, they must think you have a particular disease or condition. But that kind of negative thinking isn’t necessarily true: often, providers order an exam to rule out an unlikely disease or condition, or out of an abundance of caution. Remember that having an imaging exam does not automatically mean that something is wrong with you.

don't assume the worst
take steps to feel more in control

3. Take steps to feel more in control

While waiting for medical test results, it’s easy to feel powerless. And that powerlessness, or lack of control, can make you feel anxious. But there are steps you can take to have more control over the situation.

When meeting with your doctor, take notes to help you remember what you discussed. Ask questions about the exam, and about when you will get the results. And ask exactly how you’ll receive the results, whether by phone call, in person, or an email. Just knowing when and how to expect results can help you feel more calm and in control.

4. Limit how much you look up online

The internet is full of information about diseases, conditions, and exam results – none of which may apply to you. And much of the information you find might be wrong or misleading. Here at Inside View, all of our information is vetted by subspecialty trained radiologists who are experts on the topic we’re discussing. But other sites might not be so accurate.

Furthermore, reading online information about diseases or results may add unnecessary stress and worry while you’re waiting for results. We always recommend talking to your doctor first instead of looking for information online. Only your doctor knows you, your body, and your medical history.

limit how much you look up online
keep busy or keep still

5. Keep busy – or keep still

For some people who are anxious while waiting for news, distraction and packing their time with activities is the best way to cope. For others, quieting the mind and pursuing contemplative activities, like prayer, yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises, is better. Try both and see what works for you!

6. Stick to your daily routine

If you’re waiting for test results, be sure to do the things you normally enjoy. Spend time with family and friends, pursue your favorite hobbies, and keep your normal sleep schedule. A routine can ground you and send signals to your mind and body that you are in control and safe.

stick to your daily routine
try taking a walk

7. Try taking a walk

Regular exercise and a healthy diet have been shown to help alleviate stress and worry. If you find yourself feeling particularly worried about medical results, try taking a 30 minute walk. Or do another form of exercise that you enjoy. You don’t have to run a marathon to feel the calming benefits of exercise!

8. Ask for help

Waiting for imaging test results is stressful. Sharing your feelings and worries with others can make you feel less alone and make the worries feel less powerful. In particular, talking with people who have been in the same situation as you can help you feel more connected and make your experience feel more normal. And always tell your doctor if you are feeling stressed or anxious – they will likely have ideas to help, too.

ask for help
write what you feel

9. Write what you feel

If you are feeling stressed or scared while waiting for exam results, try writing about it. The simple act of writing out what you are thinking and feeling can help you feel more aware and in control. Try journaling about your thoughts and feelings for a few minutes each day, either before bed or first thing in the morning.

10. Focus on your inner strength

It’s easy to feel worried or powerless while waiting for medical test results. But by concentrating on your strengths rather than your fears, you can refocus your mind on your ability to cope with challenges, rather than feelings of helplessness.

Here’s a simple writing prompt to help you remember your inner strength: first, write down all the things that are making you anxious or worried. Then, write down a positive way to think about each item on that list – like how a particular worry is actually very unlikely to happen, or how, even if a fear does comes true, you will be able to handle it. By turning each fear into a positive affirmation, you’ll find that those fears have less control over how you’re feeling.

focus on your inner strength
Waiting for imaging test results - doctor and patient look at imaging test results together

How UVA Can Help

Here at UVA Radiology and Medical Imaging , we know that waiting for imaging results can be difficult. So our providers work hard to make your experience as understandable and stress-free as possible.

All UVA patients can view their imaging test results as soon as they are available (including the actual images) on MyChart, our online patient portal. Simply login to your MyChart account and click “Test Results” on the right-hand menu to view your results. If you don’t have a MyChart account, visit this page to create one.

Using MyChart, you can also message your doctor to ask questions about your exam or when you might get results. By asking questions and getting answers, you can feel more in control of the process.

Finally, you can rest easy knowing that, at UVA, your medical imaging will be studied and interpreted by a subspecialty trained radiologist. Subspecialty trained radiologists are experts at examining particular parts of the body – like the brain, the chest, or bones and joints. It means that your images will be read by the doctor who is specifically trained to read them. And it’s one of the major reasons why UVA Radiology is the best place to go for your medical imaging needs.

Talk to your care provider today about scheduling your imaging exam at UVA Radiology.

Nervous about having an MRI? Click here to read our top 10 tips for reducing MRI claustrophobia and anxiety. Or click here to learn more about what to expect during different types of imaging exams.

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