Diagnosis

Scans

Posted by Sara Liyanage on 11 April 2022

Some people (but not everyone) need more scans after receiving a diagnosis. Your breast surgeon/oncologist will arrange these depending upon various factors personal to you. If you have to go through a whole raft of additional scans after your diagnosis this can be scary but don’t panic, pop the kettle on, make a nice cup of tea and here are our top ten things to know about scans:

1. Get used to baring your boobs. Yes your boobs have already been poked, prodded, squeezed, squashed, drawn on, stared at and pierced with a needle or two. If you have any dignity left at this point, don’t bank on keeping hold of it because more nurses and radiographers will be wanting a good look at them.

2. Help. Ask someone to take you so that you don’t have to drive yourself there and home. Company is also an excellent distraction.

3. Decent undies. It’s not that you are showing off your underwear, but those gaping hospital gowns are not flattering and there is a good chance you will bare your behind to a nurse (if you are lucky) or the waiting room (if you are unlucky). Maybe just think about wearing some that are not grey.

4. Scary times. Some of the machines can look big, scary and sometimes plain weird. But the scans are over pretty quickly and they don’t hurt.

5. Be prepared to be cold! The machinery has to be kept at a certain temperature so it is usually cold in the scan rooms – ask for a blanket if you are cold (they usually give you one for your lower half while your top half is being scanned).

6. To eat or not to eat? Before you go, follow any instructions that you have been given about fasting. Sometimes you are injected with a dye so that they can see your organs and you are not allowed to eat or drink for a certain time before hand.

7. Questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Take a note book and pen in which you have jotted down your questions, and where you can write any notes.

8. Distractions. Take your mind off what is going on during the scan by distracting yourself with a mind game or relaxation technique. Times tables are a good one.

9. Scanxiety. If you have to wait for results and you haven’t heard by when you had expected, there is no harm in calling up for the results. In any event, the waiting for results is the hardest part of having a scan. Things that might help during the wait are:

  • Remind yourself that right here and right now you’re okay. Don’t jump ahead to the “what-ifs” and “what-might-be” scenarios.
  • Remind yourself that you have the strength to get through whatever the results show.
  • Don’t worry about something until it happens – as you’ll end up worrying about it twice.
  • Practice mindfulness and breathing techniques.

10. The different types of scans. There are various types of scans that you may have. It’s important to note that not everyone has every type of scan: your medical team will work out what is necessary for you depending on your own circumstances so don’t worry if you don’t have every type of scan. The Cancer Research UK website has some helpful information about each of the possible scans:

Mammogram

Ultrasound

CT scan

PET scan

PET – CT scan 

MRI scan 

Bone scan

There are plenty of NHS videos on YouTube showing you what to expect from each type of scan. Just go onto YouTube and search for the scan that you’d like to know more about.

The information and content provided on this page is intended for information and educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice.

Reviewed April 2022

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