Why Are Brain Tumors More Deadly for Kids in Poorer Neighborhoods?

IV drip
Adobe Stock

Key Takeaways

  • Children with inoperable brain tumors die sooner if they live in a poorer neighborhood

  • Kids from wealthy neighborhoods survived more than twice as long as those from poor areas

  • Less education also had an impact on a child’s treatment

MONDAY, June 24, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. children with inoperable brain tumors appear to die sooner and find it harder to get care if they live in poorer neighborhoods, a new study finds.

Children from higher-income areas had more than double the average survival time than kids from poorer neighborhoods -- 480 days versus 235 days, depending if a census tract had an average household income higher or lower than $50,000.

Kids in wealthier neighborhoods were also able to travel significantly longer distances to get the best medical care, 1,550 miles versus 1,114 miles for children in lower-income areas, researchers reported recently in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

“Children with these inoperable gliomas require access to specialized centers of care and clinical trials in the hopes of extending their lives, yet we are seeing that socioeconomic factors are linked to worsening survival,” said lead researcher Dr. John Lee, an incoming neurosurgery resident at University of Michigan Health.

“It’s critical that we understand the reasons for this disparity, so that we can ensure all patients have opportunities for life-prolonging care,” Lee added in a university news release.

The study tracked nearly 100 children being treated for two types of incurable brain tumors, diffuse midline glioma (DMG) and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), between 2000 and 2022.

Education levels also made a difference in a child’s treatment, researchers found.

Kids in higher-educated areas were able to travel an average 2,964 miles for cancer care, versus 478 miles for children in neighborhoods with the least education.

Families with fewer financial resources might be less capable of travel to specialized cancer centers where they can receive second opinions, different treatment options and enrollment in clinical trials, Lee said.

“Additionally, patients whose families have lower levels of education may have less knowledge about the signs and symptoms of a condition, early screening programs and treatment options,” said senior researcher Dr. Karin Muraszko, a professor of neurosurgery at University of Michigan Medical School.

“However, our research uncovered disparities in survival despite no significant differences in rates of clinical trial enrollment or time until initiation of treatment between patients from different census tracts,” Muraszko added. “Future studies should aim to understand the exact mechanism through which this gap is created.”

More information

The National Cancer Institute has more on childhood glioma.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, June 20, 2024

What This Means For You

Children with brain cancers might face tougher odds if they’re from poorer or less-educated parts of the country.

Related Stories

No stories found.