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Patient's neighborhood may affect outcomes

Annual Report - Winter 2013

By Erica Quiroz

Curiosity has led Lorraine Reitzel, Ph.D., to ask novel questions.

Her recent paper posed the query: Does a cancer patient’s neighborhood have an effect on his or her survival or development of a second primary malignancy?

Reitzel, assistant professor in MD Anderson’s Department of Health Disparities Research, studied 1,151 head and neck squamous cell carcinoma patients who lived in Texas and Louisiana and came to MD Anderson for treatment from 1996 to 2009.

Seann Regan, a geographic information system analyst, works with
colleague Lorraine Reitzel, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department
of Health Disparities Research, to understand the impact of neighborhood
characteristics on people's health.
Photo: Wyatt McSpadden

With the help of geographic information system technology and census data, Reitzel found that patients with oropharyngeal cancer (cancers in the middle part of the throat) — and who lived in neighborhoods with a high level of socioeconomic deprivation — had an increased risk for negative clinical outcomes. This was regardless of patients’ personal income levels.

“If the treatment team knows a patient comes from a socioeconomically deprived area and is at higher risk, they can help that patient stay connected with 
MD Anderson resources after returning home,” Reitzel says. “Knowing more about where a person lives can signal the need for more comprehensive recommendations and follow-up to prevent the development of second primary malignancies and increase overall survival.

“Our next step is to do more research and determine what it is about these areas that contributes to negative clinical outcomes so we can better help these patients.”

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