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About Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that involve people. These studies test new ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, or treat diseases. People who take part in cancer clinical trials have an opportunity to contribute to scientists’ knowledge about cancer and to help in the development of improved cancer treatments. They also receive state-of-the-art care from cancer experts.

Possible benefits of taking part in a clinical trial

The benefits of participating in a clinical trial include the following:

  • Trial participants have access to promising new interventions that are generally not available outside of a clinical trial.
  • The intervention being studied may be more effective than standard therapy. If it is more effective, trial participants may be the first to benefit from it.
  • Trial participants receive regular and careful medical attention from a research team that includes doctors, nurses, and other health professionals.
  • The results of the trial may help other people who need cancer treatment in the future.
  • Trial participants are helping scientists learn more about cancer (e.g., how it grows, how it acts, and what influences its growth and spread).

Potential harms associated with taking part in a clinical trial

The potential harms of participating in a clinical trial include the following:

  • The new intervention being studied may not be better than standard therapy, or it may have harmful side effects that doctors do not expect or that are worse than those associated with standard therapy.
  • Trial participants may be required to make more visits to the doctor than they would if they were not in a clinical trial and/or may need to travel farther for those visits.
  • Health insurance may not cover all patient care costs in a trial.

If, after reviewing the material on this Web site, you are considering participating in a clinical trial, the next step is to talk to your physician or other health professionals. The final choice of whether to enter a trial is up to you, but your medical team can help you weigh the options.

Getting answers may also help you work better with a doctor. To help guide your thoughts, print out this list and take it with you. And remember, no question about your care is unimportant.

Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • Why is this trial important to me? What are the potential outcomes?
  • Who is sponsoring the trial?
  • Who can participate in this trial?
  • Who will monitor my care and safety?
  • Who will review the information collected during the trial?
  • Will I be hospitalized? If so, how often and for how long?
  • Will I be able to see my own doctor? Who will be in charge of my care?
  • How can I personally benefit from a clinical trial?
  • How do those benefits compare to other treatment options or standard treatment?
  • How often will I need to visit a physician's office?
  • How long is the trial compared to standard treatment?
  • How will the trial and its possible side effects affect my daily life? Are there treatments to help alleviate side effects?
  • What support will be available for me and my caregivers during the trial? Can I talk to other people in the trial?
  • What are the eligibility requirements?
  • What are the trial's tests and treatments?
  • What are the potential risks and how will it compare to the standard treatment options?
  • What type of time commitment is involved with this clinical trial?
  • What are my out-of-pocket costs and responsibilities?
  • Will my insurance company, Medicaid, or managed care plan cover these costs? Who will help me answer this question?
  • What is the long-term follow-up care? Who is providing this care?

Adapted from the National Cancer Institute's PDQ Database: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Information/clinical-trials. (Accessed December 2010)

 

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