The Zoomer Report: Medical Test Anxiety

Do you get extremely nervous waiting for the results of a medical test? You’re not alone. A study from Harvard’s medical school suggests this type of uncertainty can produce more anxiety than knowing you have a serious disorder.

The researchers followed more than 200 women who were booked for various medical procedures. Half were waiting for a breast biopsy to determine if a suspicious lump was cancerous; while others were being treated for liver cancer or benign uterine fibroids.

Immediately before the procedures, each of the women completed a series of questionnaires to gauge their stress and anxiety levels in the preceding week.

The study found the biopsy patients reported significantly higher levels of stress and anxiety than women in the other two groups.

These findings really drive the point home that the distress of not knowing your diagnosis is serious. On the other hand, once there’s a diagnosis, patients can start taking active steps for improving the situation which makes them feel better.

The study authors say many doctors underestimate — or fail to comprehend — the sense of powerlessness and uncertainty patients experience while waiting for results. They want health-care providers to do more to minimize the emotional toll of these procedures.

Photo © Alexander Raths

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Libby ZnaimerAbout The Zoomer Report

Libby Znaimer, a prominent Canadian journalist specializing in business, politics, and lifestyle issues, is producer and host of The Zoomer Report, a special feature on topics of interest to baby boomers and the 50+. It covers everything from health and wealth to leisure and volunteerism, from the special vantage point of the generation that has changed society in its wake.

Ms. Znaimer is also Vice-President of News and Information for Classical 96.3FM and AM740. Her first book, “In Cancerland – Living Well Is The Best Revenge” – was published in October 2007 by Key Porter.

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