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Why Participate in a Clinical Trial?

Doctor talking to Hispanic patient

When you need treatment for cancer, you may want to think about joining a clinical trial. By looking closely at all options, including clinical trials, you are taking an active role in a decision that affects your life.

This section has information on the risks and benefits of clinical trials to help you decide.

Deciding to join a clinical trial

Should You Join a Clinical Trial?

Learn the reasons why you might want to join a cancer clinical trial.

Possible risks in treatment clinical trials

Every clinical trial is different, which means risks can also differ. Some common risks include:

  • The study treatment may not be better than, or even as good as, the standard treatment.
  • Study treatments may have serious side effects that are worse than those of the standard treatment.
  • You may be required to make more visits to the doctor and have more tests than if you were receiving standard treatment.
  • You may have extra expenses related to these extra visits, such as travel, housing, and childcare costs.

Possible benefits of joining a clinical trial

Some of the benefits to joining a treatment clinical trial may include:

  • The trial may help researchers learn more about cancer and help people in the future.
  • You might have access to a treatment that is under study that may not be available to people outside the trial.
  • The research team will watch you closely, adding an extra layer of care to your health.
  • Though not common, if the treatment being studied is more effective than the standard treatment, you may be among the first to benefit.

Questions to ask before joining a clinical trial

If you are thinking about joining a clinical trial, here are some questions you may want to ask your doctor and the study research team.

Questions about the Trial

  • What is the purpose of the trial?
  • Why do the researchers believe that the treatment being studied may be better than the one being used now? Why may it not be better?
  • How long will I be in the trial?
  • How many visits will I need to make to the hospital or clinic?
  • What kinds of tests and treatments are involved?
  • How will the doctor know if the treatment is working?
  • How will I be told about the trial’s results?
  • How long do I have to make up my mind about joining this trial?
  • Who can I speak with about questions I have during and after the trial?
  • Who will be in charge of my care?

Questions about Risks and Benefits

  • What are the possible side effects or risks of the new treatment?
  • What are the possible benefits?
  • How do the possible risks and benefits of this trial compare to those of the standard treatment?

Questions about Your Rights

  • How will my health information be kept private?
  • If I decide to leave the trial, what other options will I have?

Questions about Costs

  • Which costs do I have to pay if I take part in the trial?
  • What costs will my health insurance cover?
  • Who can help answer questions from my insurance company?
  • Who can I talk with about costs and payments?

Questions about Daily Life

  • How could the trial affect my daily life?
  • How often will I have to come to the hospital or clinic?
  • Will I have to stay in the hospital during the clinical trial? If so, how often and for how long?
  • How far will I need to travel to take part in the trial?
  • Will I have check-ups after the trial?

Questions about Comparing Choices

  • What are my other treatment choices, including standard treatments?
  • How does the treatment I would receive in this trial compare with the other treatment choices?
  • What will happen to my cancer if I decide not to have any treatment?