As a young girl growing up on the south side of Puerto Rico, Rosario Costas-Muñiz, PhD, felt a calling to help people with the mental health side effects of a cancer diagnosis. Today, she is a psycho-oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. She focuses on the mental health needs of people diagnosed with cancer within the Latino community.
Cancer affected many members of her close-knit family. One of her grandfathers was diagnosed with prostate cancer, her grandmothers both died from breast cancer, and her mother was also diagnosed with the disease. Her father was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at age 50, when Dr. Costas-Muñiz was just 10 years old.
Despite her young age, Dr. Costas-Muñiz was struck by the cancer disparities that existed for people who lived, as her family did, in an area with limited healthcare resources. She watched as family members and others in her community struggled to get access to comprehensive cancer care following a diagnosis.
She also saw the ways people changed after a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Someone’s mood and character could change. They might experience depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions. Family members were sometimes negatively affected by the increased emotional and mental load of the cancer experience and caregiving.
Decades later, these disparities still exist and Dr. Costas-Muñiz is on a mission to help overcome them.
Read more at MSKCC.org.