The US Report Indicates a Halt in Progress for Black and Hispanic Children with Cancer
The progress made in treating childhood cancer is a notable achievement in modern medicine. However, over the last ten years, this progress has come to a halt for Black and Hispanic children, resulting in a disparity in mortality rates, as stated in a recent report released on Thursday.
Cancer in young children is uncommon, but advancements in treatment have greatly increased chances of survival in the past few decades.
In 2001, the mortality rates for Black, Hispanic, and white children were similar and decreased over the following decade. However, in the subsequent 10 years, only the rate for white children slightly declined.
Dr. Sharon Castellino, a pediatric cancer specialist at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute in Atlanta, states that having advanced scientific technology is not enough if it cannot be accessible to all communities equally. She was not involved in the new report.
According to her, the intricacy of modern cancer treatments like gene therapy, which has the potential to cure certain cases of childhood leukemia, can create additional challenges for families and hinder their access to proper care.
According to Castellino, it is necessary for at least one parent to give up their job and be available all day, every day, in order to address the needs of their children. This task can be challenging and families may struggle to make it happen, not because they do not want to, but because it is a difficult situation.
There is a need for additional social workers to assist families in completing necessary paperwork for job-protected leave and to ensure that their child’s health insurance remains current and does not expire.
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cancer death rate for children and teenagers in the U.S. has decreased by 24% over the course of two decades, from 2.75 to 2.10 per 100,000.
In 2021, the rate per 10,000 individuals was 2.38 for Black youth, 2.36 for Hispanics, and 1.99 for whites.
Fifty years ago, childhood cancer was almost impossible to treat, but now, most patients have a good chance of survival, particularly those with leukemia. Brain cancer has now become the primary cause of cancer-related deaths in children, surpassing leukemia.
Around 15,000 kids and adolescents are annually diagnosed with cancer in the United States. Over 85% of them survive for at least five years.
Dr. Paula Aristizabal from the University of California, San Diego, reports that over 200 hospitals have collaborated in research leading to increased survival rates. At Rady Children’s Hospital, Dr. Aristizabal is working to involve a greater number of Hispanic children in research studies, as they are currently not well-represented.
According to Aristizabal, equity involves giving personalized support to each family.
The National Cancer Institute is striving to collect information from all children diagnosed with cancer in order to connect them with the most advanced treatment options. According to Dr. Emily Tonorezos, who oversees the institute’s efforts on cancer survivorship, this initiative has the potential to enhance fairness and equal access to care.
She stated that the CDC’s findings were “distressing and disheartening,” and that they provide guidance for our future direction.