Progress in treating childhood cancer has been a notable achievement in the field of modern medicine. However, over the last ten years, the progress has slowed for Black and Hispanic children, resulting in a widening disparity in mortality rates, as stated in a recently published report on Thursday.
Cancer in children is not common and medical advancements have greatly improved in the past few decades, leading to saved lives.
The mortality rates in 2001 were similar for Black, Hispanic, and white children. However, over the following decade, all three groups experienced a decrease in their mortality rates. Yet, in the next 10 years, only the mortality rate for white children showed a slight decrease.
Dr. Sharon Castellino, a pediatric cancer specialist at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute in Atlanta, stated that despite having advanced scientific developments, it is crucial for them to be accessible to all communities equally in order for the nation to achieve its goals. She had no involvement in the report.
She explained that the intricate nature of modern cancer treatments, like gene therapy, can be overwhelming for families and can hinder their ability to seek treatment. This treatment has shown success in curing certain cases of childhood leukemia.
According to Castellino, one parent must resign from their job and be constantly available in order to resolve the situation for their children. It is not that families are unwilling to do this, but it is a challenging task.
We require additional social workers to assist families with completing necessary paperwork to obtain job-protected leave and ensure that the child’s health insurance remains current and does not expire.
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of cancer-related deaths among children and teenagers in the United States decreased by 24% over a period of 20 years, going from 2.75 to 2.10 per 100,000.
In 2021, the rate per 10,000 was 2.38 for Black youth, 2.36 for Hispanics, and 1.99 for whites.
Fifty years ago, childhood cancer was almost impossible to cure, but now the majority of patients can survive, particularly those with leukemia. The most common cause of cancer-related deaths in children is currently brain cancer, surpassing leukemia.
Approximately 15,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer every year in the United States. Over 85% of them survive for at least five years.
Dr. Paula Aristizabal from the University of California, San Diego has credited research collaboration among over 200 hospitals for the enhanced survival rates. At Rady Children’s Hospital, she is actively working to increase representation of Hispanic children in research studies.
Aristizabal stated that equity involves offering personalized support to every family.
The National Cancer Institute is currently collecting information from all pediatric cancer patients in order to connect each child with the most advanced treatment available. Dr. Emily Tonorezos, who is in charge of the institute’s efforts on cancer survivorship, believes that this initiative could enhance fairness in healthcare.
She expressed her disappointment and disheartenment with the CDC’s report, stating that it provides guidance for our future steps.
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