Anxiety Is Common Among People Living With Cancer
- “Love Island” star Samie Elishi, 23, undergoes thyroid surgery to help doctors determine if the lump in her neck was cancerous.
- Thyroid cancer is a growth of cells that starts in the thyroid, which is located at the base of the neck and produces hormones that regulate your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight.
- Many people living with cancer or facing the possibility of cancer deal with 'scan-xiety,' or anxiety related to the test results of the scan, biopsy, mammogram, or other related cancer testing.
- This stress and anxiety can make the cancer experience more difficult. To help manage this, psychiatrist Dr. Samantha Boardman recommends trying to find "flow," to deal with these emotions.
- Flow refers to any activity that can take you out of the moment it could be exercise, painting, gardening, or any other hobby where people are enjoying themselves so much, they lose track of time.
Elishi is a popular cast member on the hit TV reality show "Love Island." The show features a group of single men and women looking for love. Each week, someone is voted off the drama-filled show until the remaining cast members are left to find true love.Read More
Since her procedure, Elishi said the area on her neck where doctors performed the surgery is "a little bruised and tender" but an onslaught of positive and supportive messages from concerned fans is keeping her in good spirits.
"I'm now on rest duty but will be vlogging the recovery. Every day I receive soo many supportive messages from you guys forever grateful," Elishi said.
"Me raising awareness has led to some of you having this surgery and getting lumps in your neck checked, getting these messages mean so much! If I can help one person that's enough," she said.
Elishi's experience mirrors another cast member who appeared on the "Love Island" reality TV show. Demi Jones, 24, had a golf ball-sized lump on her neck in 2019. Before her diagnosis, watchful viewers of the show called attention to the lump on her neck, prompting her to see a doctor. Following her diagnosis, Jones underwent successful surgery in April 2021 to remove her tumor, followed by additional treatment to make certain the cancer cells were removed. She then underwent radiation treatment for that process and declared herself free of cancer in December of that year.
Thyroid cancer occurs when a growth of abnormal cells forms in the thyroid which is located at the base of the neck. The thyroid produces hormones that regulate your heart, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight. The National Cancer Institute says there are four main types of thyroid cancer which are follicular, medullary, anaplastic, and papillary. If caught at an early stage, thyroid cancer can be treated.
Common symptoms associated with thyroid cancer include difficulty swallowing, and pain or swelling in your neck as both Samie Elishi and Demi Jones experienced.
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Managing Anxiety Amid a Cancer Scare
Samie Elishi is now waiting for test results to learn if she will be diagnosed with a form of thyroid cancer. This waiting period can be extremely stressful for patients and their loved ones while awaiting test results for a possible cancer diagnosis. For cancer patients undergoing regular scans to monitor their cancer may experience scan anxiety or Scan-xiety. This feeling of uncertainty and anxiety also presents itself for women after undergoing a mammogram that screens for breast cancer.
"Scan-xiety," or anxiety that people living with cancer (or survivors) sometimes feel when thinking about their upcoming cancer scans, is a big stressor for so many patients and their loved ones. Even cancer patients in remission may experience scan-xiety because they worry about their disease returning. While these types of concerns are normal and very real, it's also important to control your stress level and not let it take hold of your life.
WATCH: How to manage your cancer-related anxiety.
"Scan anxiety is unbelievably stressful," Dr. Samantha Boardman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine, told SurvivorNet.
"Probably one of the best antidotes that I think psychology can offer patients is to experience flow," Dr. Boardman adds.
"Flow" means participating in any activity that makes you "lose a sense of time," as Dr. Boardman puts it, and focuses less on the cancer or disease. Some ways patients can experience flow include exercising, creating art, listening to music, or any activity that brings them enjoyment to the point they stop solely focusing on time spent waiting on test results related to cancer or disease.
"How can we experience flow in our daily lives? It's usually in some form of a hobby something we just do because we love doing it," Dr. Boardman said.
"I really encourage patients to find and experience something that they can do that gives them flow. It might be baking, it might be gardening, it might even be doing some housework. They are so immersed in that experience that they're not thinking about anything else," Dr. Boardman continued.
Dr. Boardman said that getting into the "flow" mindset has been proven to help with the stress and anxiety so many people with living cancer deal with.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
If you have an upcoming test or scan and are stressing out over it, consider contacting your doctor for some tips to ease your mind.
- How can I seek help if I am feeling over-stressed?
- Are there any activities that I should be avoiding?
- Are there support groups in my area that deal with "scan anxiety?"