Study finds a third of families with children being treated for cancer have unmet basic needs

–The Boston Globe

Almost a third of the families with children diagnosed with pediatric cancer faced housing, energy, or food insecurity while their children were in treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, according to a new study from the center.

The same study, published in Wednesday in Pediatric Blood & Cancer, found that one-quarter of the families lost more than 40 percent of their household income.

Researchers surveyed 99 patients at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s within a month of the diagnosis and then six months later.

They were surprised by the findings, according to Dana-Farber. They expected there to be a lower level of need at a major medical center that provides “psychosocial support’’ for patients and resource specialists to help families facing financial constraints.

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“If anything, the numbers in our study are an underestimate of what might be seen at less well-resourced institutions, which was somewhat surprising to us,’’ the study’s lead author Dr. Kira Bona said.

The researchers hope they have identified variables in the study that can be improved through governmental or philanthropic support more easily than a family’s overall income. Dana-Farber said the study followed growing research in pediatric oncology that has found a family’s low-income status can predict “poor adherence to oral chemotherapy and decreased overall survival.’’

“If household material hardship is linked to poorer outcomes in pediatric oncology, just like income is, then we can design interventions to fix food, housing and energy insecurity,’’ Bona said. “It’s not clear what you do about income in a clinical setting.’’

Learn more about the study’s findings here.

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