Racial, Ethnic, and Socioeconomic Health Inequities Lead Some Children to Have Worse Osteosarcoma Care, Outcomes

The first thing that you should know: osteosarcoma (a type of bone cancer) is treatable. In fact, when you treat osteosarcoma early enough, it is curable; children can live long, happy, and relatively “normal” lives. But research from Dr. Adam Green of the University of Colorado Cancer Center found that there are a number of inequities and barriers to care that contribute to worse outcomes for certain children. 

Among these, shares an article from Rachel Sauer on CU Anschutz, are racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic factors. In the past, Dr. Green noticed that certain patients presented with later-stage, metastatic osteosarcoma. Having previously explored the relationship between race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status in the field of retinoblastoma, Dr. Green wondered if similar issues were at play here. 

Identifying Barriers to Care

In this study, Dr. Green and his research team began by analyzing data sourced from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program; you may also see this referred to as the SEER Program. After extracting the data, the team discovered that:

  • Living in a lower socioeconomic community increased the risk of mortality by 4.5-fold in children and adolescents living with non-metastatic osteosarcoma (or osteosarcoma that hasn’t spread yet). It similarly increased mortality risk in children with metastatic Ewing sarcoma. 
  • Hispanic children with non-metastatic Ewing sarcoma, another form of sarcoma, had a higher mortality risk than non-Hispanic children with non-metastatic Ewing sarcoma. 
  • Additional barriers to care included having public health insurance, living in a non-English-speaking area, or lower English language proficiency at home. 

Racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic barriers to care are not new. They have been documented time and time again. It’s time that the medical community begins to develop more actionable and impactful ways to serve these communities. 

Osteosarcoma: A Brief Discussion

Known also as osteogenic sarcoma, osteosarcoma is a rare bone cancer that often occurs in children, adolescents, and people over 60 years old. The cancer most often manifests in fast-growing areas of the bone, such as the femur near the knee or the shinbone. In adolescents, this cancer may manifest in years when they are going through growth spurts; this may cause osteosarcoma pain to initially be brushed off as simple growing pains. Even though osteosarcoma is considered to be rare, it is also the most common bone cancer in children and adolescents. Doctors believe there may be some hereditary link to osteosarcoma development, though this has not been concretely determined. 

Children and adolescents with osteosarcoma may experience symptoms like bone pain, redness and swelling near the affected area, bone fractures with seemingly no cause, limited mobility or range of motion, or other symptoms based on where the tumor is located. In many cases, surgery and chemotherapy are effective in treating patients.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

Follow us