Relationship of socio-economic status and childhood cancer: an in-hospital cross-sectional study in a developing country
Background: Socioeconomic factors are known to affect health quality, disease occurrence as well as health-seeking behaviors in several ways.
Objectives: To determine the influence of socio-economic factors on awareness of cancer, healthseeking behaviors among parents of children with cancer in a developing country and occurrence of cancer using Burkitt lymphoma as index malignancy.
Methods: This was a descriptive cross-sectional study that involved children with cancer seen over a 2-year period in a tertiary hospital in Nigeria. Information was obtained by interview through administration of a questionnaire and retrieval of clinical data from patients’ case notes.
Results: The caregivers of 91 children (46 boys, 45 girls) were interviewed including 86 biological parents. Majority (84.6%) of the children belonged to the low socio -economic classes 3-5; 45 of 86 parents (52.3%), more likely in parents from higher socioeconomic classes, were aware of cancer but only 7 (8.1%) knew it could occur in children. There was no association between Burkitt lymphoma and socio-economic class. Twenty-eight (30.8%) parents of the 91 children visited alternate sources of health care, most commonly traditional healers, followed by religious centers. There was no association between visits to such centers and the parents’ socio-economic status or with presentation with metastatic disease.
Conclusions: Awareness of childhood cancer is low among this cohort of parents; their socioeconomic status seems to impact on this level of awareness but not on their health-seeking behaviors for their affected children. Focused health education is needed to increase childhood cancer awareness and appropriate healthseeking behavior among the population studied.
Key words: socio-economic; childhood; cancer; health-seeking; behaviour; awareness