Sam Newton is all too familiar with the anxiety that scans can cause. She’s experienced it as a brain tumour patient and as a health care professional.
Sam is a radiographer, specialising in breast screening, and working with people who have cancer or are anxious and afraid that they have cancer. Sam is also a patient. Three years ago, she was diagnosed with two meningiomas, and now has regular scans.
As a patient and professional with 23 years of experience, Sam understands the process more than most, but it doesn’t make having an MRI scan any easier. “Personally, I dislike them,” Sam says. “I am very claustrophobic, so I have medication to help me cope. My MRI colleagues are fantastic; they always look after me very well. But there is always that anxiety of what if. What if it’s reoccurred or what if my second tumour has grown. It’s good to know I’m monitored but it always heightens my worries.”
Her own experience means she understands exactly how her patients are feeling. She understands the worry. She understands the fear. And the feeling of not being in control, she understands that too.
“I try my best to reassure my patients by giving a full explanation of what will happen and why they are there. They get chance to ask questions and I can pick up clues as to how they are feeling. My own experience of having a brain tumour can help in these situations. The fear of being out of control is one I really understand, as well as the uncertainty and the worries around what is going to happen.”
For anyone who is claustrophobic, Sam suggests talking to your radiographer. They will be able to help, and for MRI scans can offer eye masks and arrange for you to have someone in the room with you. “And,” Sam adds. “If there’s anything you don’t understand, please ask.”
When it comes to the wait for results, Sam often waits up to four weeks. “I try really hard to put it to the back of my mind, but it would be good to get the results quicker.
Combining her professional and personal experience means Sam can understand what her patients are going through, while understanding why the results can take time. “The wheels in hospitals do turn slowly at times, but remember it’s all about the results being accurate and sometimes a second opinion, or the input of the multi-disciplinary meeting is needed to discuss treatment options before results are given.”