Living With Cancer, Fear of COVID-19, & the Holiday Season Can Increase Stress Levels Which Can Impact Treatment


Cancer, COVID-19, & The Holidays

  • An expert tells SurvivorNet that there is great concern in the oncology community that cancer patients are experiencing much higher stress levels as COVID-19 cases increase.
  • Stress can influence someone’s immune system, leading to inflammation which can reduce the body’s ability to fight off tumors.
  • Experts recommend those battling cancer to try to reduce stress by exercising, turning to health professionals for questions they have, and taking time to do activities they enjoy.

The pandemic has caused stress for everyone, but for those battling cancer, this can have significant impact on their treatment outcomes. The holiday season is upon us, COVID-19 cases are rising yet again, but cancer doesn’t stop for anyone.

Related: No, Stress Doesn’t Cause Cancer. But it Can Lead to Other Cancer-causing Habits and Conditions

“Cancer patients undergo an extreme amount of stress, and there’s a number of common things cancer patients can experience such as anxiety, depression, financial toxicity, social isolation, and sometimes even PTSD,” Dr. Shelly Tworoger, a researcher at Moffitt Cancer Center, tells SurvivorNet. “So there’s a lot of concern in the oncology community that the COVID-19 pandemic can magnify those uncertainties and stressors for cancer patients.”

A Positive Attitude Matters During Cancer Treatment

While going through treatment, it’s very important that cancer patients try to remain positive and keep their spirits up as much as possible — especially since a positive mindset is directly linked to more successful treatment outcomes. Stress can impact someone’s immune system, which needs to be in tip-top shape while going through cancer treatment so it can fight off the cancer. A large effect of stress can be inflammation in the body.

Related: Stay Positive, It Matters

“Stress can lead to inflammation on the body, which then creates a potential direct effect on tumors in terms of reducing the body’s ability to fight off the tumors,” Dr. Bob Keenan, a thoracic surgeon at Moffitt Cancer Center, tells SurvivorNet. “Attitude is everything when it comes to cancer management, because the things we ask patients to go through are very demanding.”

Dr. Heather Yeo explains how stress impacts cancer treatment

COVID-19 Stress & Cancer Risk

Although stress cannot cause cancer, a stressful lifestyle may increase certain risk factors associated with the disease. For some, the holidays are synonymous with food and indulgence. Diet can play a critical role in assessing someone’s risk for cancer, and when you combine unhealthy foods alongside stress eating, your possible risk of a diagnosis may go up.

Related: 50% of Men Aren’t Concerned About Prostate Cancer & 40% Delayed Doctor Visits During Covid-19 — SurvivorNet Survey Reveals Astounding Way Men Ignore Their Health

Cancer prevention has also taken a hard hit as a result of COVID-19. More people continue to delay life-saving screenings in fear of being exposed to the virus “If you’ve had cancer and you’re going in for screenings to determine whether your cancer has come back, it’s really important to maintain those appointments as much as possible,” Dr. Tworoger says.

Cancer screenings can sometimes be a stressful process in and of themselves, but by delaying these checkups the feeling of uncertainty will only grow. Screenings can detect and catch cancer in early stages, which significantly improves successful treatment outcomes.

Dr. Elizabeth Comen says cancer screenings need to continue during COVID-19

Guidance to Ease Stress

During uncertain times, it can be very difficult to not be overwhelmed. However, there are ways to try to manage stress and anxiety so it doesn’t take up your entire day. “If you have been diagnosed with cancer, you are far more resilient than you believe, and dealing with something like COVID-19 is something that you have already developed skills for,” Dr. Marianna Strongin, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Strong In Therapy Psychology, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “You have lived through the unknown, and you now have the skills to live through it again.”

Related: How To Manage Anxiety During Coronavirus — ‘You’re asking Yourself a Question, But You Can’t Find The Answer’

Tips to Ease Stress:

  • Exercise
  • Avoid asking questions you can’t get answers to; uncertainty can lead to more stress
  • Turn to professionals that can hep ease any anxiety you may be feeling about treatment or screenings
  • Turn off the news every once in a while
  • Take time to do activities you enjoy

Dr. Marianna Strongin shares helpful tips for cancer patients on how to manage COVID-19 anxiety

Learn more about SurvivorNet’s rigorous medical review process.

Cancer, COVID-19, & The Holidays

  • An expert tells SurvivorNet that there is great concern in the oncology community that cancer patients are experiencing much higher stress levels as COVID-19 cases increase.
  • Stress can influence someone’s immune system, leading to inflammation which can reduce the body’s ability to fight off tumors.
  • Experts recommend those battling cancer to try to reduce stress by exercising, turning to health professionals for questions they have, and taking time to do activities they enjoy.

The pandemic has caused stress for everyone, but for those battling cancer, this can have significant impact on their treatment outcomes. The holiday season is upon us, COVID-19 cases are rising yet again, but cancer doesn’t stop for anyone.
Related: No, Stress Doesn’t Cause Cancer. But it Can Lead to Other Cancer-causing Habits and Conditions
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“Cancer patients undergo an extreme amount of stress, and there’s a number of common things cancer patients can experience such as anxiety, depression, financial toxicity, social isolation, and sometimes even PTSD,” Dr. Shelly Tworoger, a researcher at Moffitt Cancer Center, tells SurvivorNet. “So there’s a lot of concern in the oncology community that the COVID-19 pandemic can magnify those uncertainties and stressors for cancer patients.”

A Positive Attitude Matters During Cancer Treatment

While going through treatment, it’s very important that cancer patients try to remain positive and keep their spirits up as much as possible — especially since a positive mindset is directly linked to more successful treatment outcomes. Stress can impact someone’s immune system, which needs to be in tip-top shape while going through cancer treatment so it can fight off the cancer. A large effect of stress can be inflammation in the body.

Related: Stay Positive, It Matters

“Stress can lead to inflammation on the body, which then creates a potential direct effect on tumors in terms of reducing the body’s ability to fight off the tumors,” Dr. Bob Keenan, a thoracic surgeon at Moffitt Cancer Center, tells SurvivorNet. “Attitude is everything when it comes to cancer management, because the things we ask patients to go through are very demanding.”

Dr. Heather Yeo explains how stress impacts cancer treatment

COVID-19 Stress & Cancer Risk

Although stress cannot cause cancer, a stressful lifestyle may increase certain risk factors associated with the disease. For some, the holidays are synonymous with food and indulgence. Diet can play a critical role in assessing someone’s risk for cancer, and when you combine unhealthy foods alongside stress eating, your possible risk of a diagnosis may go up.

Related: 50% of Men Aren’t Concerned About Prostate Cancer & 40% Delayed Doctor Visits During Covid-19 — SurvivorNet Survey Reveals Astounding Way Men Ignore Their Health

Cancer prevention has also taken a hard hit as a result of COVID-19. More people continue to delay life-saving screenings in fear of being exposed to the virus “If you’ve had cancer and you’re going in for screenings to determine whether your cancer has come back, it’s really important to maintain those appointments as much as possible,” Dr. Tworoger says.

Cancer screenings can sometimes be a stressful process in and of themselves, but by delaying these checkups the feeling of uncertainty will only grow. Screenings can detect and catch cancer in early stages, which significantly improves successful treatment outcomes.

Dr. Elizabeth Comen says cancer screenings need to continue during COVID-19

Guidance to Ease Stress

During uncertain times, it can be very difficult to not be overwhelmed. However, there are ways to try to manage stress and anxiety so it doesn’t take up your entire day. “If you have been diagnosed with cancer, you are far more resilient than you believe, and dealing with something like COVID-19 is something that you have already developed skills for,” Dr. Marianna Strongin, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Strong In Therapy Psychology, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “You have lived through the unknown, and you now have the skills to live through it again.”

Related: How To Manage Anxiety During Coronavirus — ‘You’re asking Yourself a Question, But You Can’t Find The Answer’

Tips to Ease Stress:

  • Exercise
  • Avoid asking questions you can’t get answers to; uncertainty can lead to more stress
  • Turn to professionals that can hep ease any anxiety you may be feeling about treatment or screenings
  • Turn off the news every once in a while
  • Take time to do activities you enjoy

Dr. Marianna Strongin shares helpful tips for cancer patients on how to manage COVID-19 anxiety

Learn more about SurvivorNet’s rigorous medical review process.



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