Despair over developed fear of tests?


Question from binney1: After 16 months of treatment and tests for breast cancer (and some collateral heart damage), I've developed a terror of tests and doctor visits that I didn't used to have. It's unreasonable because the tests aren't even especially painful (CT scans, MRIs, etc.) and all my doctors have been wonderful. But before a test or office visit I spend a week or so in despair. Any suggestions?
Answers - Rosalind Kleban, L.C.S.W. Having that kind of fear and anxiety is not all that unusual. Most women are not afraid of the tests themselves because, as you point out, they are often not painful or difficult. It's the anxiety of the results and what that may mean for the future that is terrifying. It sounds like this has already been discussed with the doctors in charge (which should be done), but I can suggest that you go with a companion who would be reassuring. You may also want to explore the relaxation techniques that are available—deep breathing, visualization, things that can affect you that day or as you approach the test.

People with more difficulty often use medication as an aide. There are easier and harder times going through this, and going through the tests and anticipating the results are often the most difficult part of the process.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. You can develop an arrangement with your doctor that the doctor knows when you will get a test and you can arrange a phone call thereafter or an office visit when you can learn about the test results. This way, the amount of time of uncertainty can hopefully be shortened. Keep in mind that most of the time the patient herself schedules the test according to her own particular life and the doctor has no idea when the test is actually performed until the actual typed report comes across his or her desk. So you might be out there waiting and wondering and worrying about your test results and wondering why your doctor has not called you with the results, when your doctor might not know that you even had the test completed. Here is a place where good communication can go a long way to ease the natural fear that can occur.

On Wednesday, June 19, 2002, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Dealing with Breast Cancer Fears. Rosalind Kleban, L.C.S.W. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about aspects of breast cancer that cause concern.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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