The Double Whammy of Cancer and COVID-19 on Mental Health

Jamie Cesanek

In this episode of the “CURE® Talks Cancer” podcast, Dr. William Breitbart, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health within the cancer community and what people can do to manage this extra strain.

Dr. William Breitbart is the chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), where he’s been for 37 years. Breitbart recently spoke on the Cancer Straight Talk podcast from MSK about the impact on mental health brought about by the COVID-19 world.

In this episode of the “CURE® Talks Cancer” podcast, Breitbart discusses the toll the pandemic has had on patients, survivors and caregivers and ways for them to manage their stressors.

“For cancer survivors, death is more real and more difficult to deny and avoid,” said Breitbart. And so, during the pandemic, this enhanced death salience that bombards us at almost every moment from wearing the mask to being restricted in your social interactions to turning on the TV and hearing how many people have COVID and how many people have died. It's inescapable. And so, what it produces is this sense of really intense death anxiety.”

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