MAR 15, 2020 2:53 PM PDT

The racism behind cancer

Researchers from the University of Colorado Cancer Center have made strides in understanding the reasons behind disparities in outcomes for cancer patients of different races. Focusing particularly on pediatric brain cancer patients, the investigators confirmed that Black and Hispanic children with brain cancer have worse outcomes than non-Hispanic white children. These findings, which follow similar trends for adults, are unique in their attempts to explain where the breakdowns in the diagnosis and treatment processes occur. They were published recently in the journal Scientific Reports

The study analyzed cases of pediatric brain cancer cases at Children's Hospital Colorado. Looking at 1,881 patients under 19 years old with brain and central nervous system cancer diagnoses from 2000-2015, 52% of White patients lived five years from diagnosis, compared to 44% of African American patients and 45% of Hispanic patients.

"If we look overall in the pediatric brain and central nervous system cancers, Black and Hispanic patients have a higher risk of dying from these tumors compared with non-Hispanic White patients," stated the study's senior author, Adam Green, MD, CU Cancer Center investigator and pediatric brain cancer specialist at Children's Hospital Colorado. "Even when they presented with similar stage disease as their White counterparts, they still did worse."

They found that there were no disparities among race at the time of diagnosis, rather than Black and Hispanic patients had poorer outcomes than non-Hispanic White patients during treatment and follow-up care.

Where is the breakdown in the healthcare system? Photo: Pixabay

"We were surprised," says Green. "In general, we expect these disparities to be multi-factorial and have pre- and post-diagnosis components, but these findings suggest these patients are able to get diagnosed appropriately, but after that, treatment and follow up may be where the disparities lie."

The researchers say that understanding the inequality and inequity of the healthcare system is crucial to contextualizing patients’ outcomes and developing improved planning mechanisms. "One thing we don't talk about enough in cancer is how much of a burden going through treatment is on families - financial resources, transportation resources, time resources, shelter and lodging resources, etc.," Green says. "We can plan an effective treatment, but if there are life factors that make it more challenging for some families to get that entire course of treatment successfully, then all the planning we do isn't going to make the treatment as effective as we would like it to be. It's incumbent on us to make sure these families have access to the resources they need to ensure that their children are able to get the highest quality care."

Sources: Scientific Reports, Colorado Cancer Blogs, Eureka Alert!

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
JUN 09, 2021
Technology
Computer Program Generates Effective, Clinically-valid Treatment Plans for Cancer Patients
JUN 09, 2021
Computer Program Generates Effective, Clinically-valid Treatment Plans for Cancer Patients
In a recent study published in Nature Medicine, researchers at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre offer evidence for th ...
JUN 23, 2021
Cancer
Military universal health system boasts higher survival rates for colon cancer patients
JUN 23, 2021
Military universal health system boasts higher survival rates for colon cancer patients
New results published in the American Association for Cancer Research journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prev ...
AUG 17, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Delays in Breast Cancer Diagnoses Among Black Women
AUG 17, 2021
Delays in Breast Cancer Diagnoses Among Black Women
Thanks to breakthrough diagnostic technologies, we can now catch the early warning signs of breast cancer much faster th ...
AUG 19, 2021
Immunology
Immune Enzyme Kills Viruses but Makes Tumors Stronger
AUG 19, 2021
Immune Enzyme Kills Viruses but Makes Tumors Stronger
Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde describes a man who is a kind, respect ...
AUG 24, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
A New Chapter in Metastatic Breast Cancer Biomarkers
AUG 24, 2021
A New Chapter in Metastatic Breast Cancer Biomarkers
For patients diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, it’s often not the primary tumor that has fatal consequences ...
SEP 22, 2021
Cancer
Whole Genome Sequencing for Cancer Diagnostics
SEP 22, 2021
Whole Genome Sequencing for Cancer Diagnostics
The human genome consists of genetic material known as DNA.  We all have unique DNA sequences made up of four bases ...
Loading Comments...