With there being so many unknowns in cancer, it’s of the utmost importance that we continue to strive for improvement. The only way to get better detection, prevention, and treatment is research. As a cancer survivor and researcher, I have been able to see both sides of enrolling in a clinical trial. Here is what you need to know before you enroll.
1) What is a Clinical Trial?
A clinical trial, is a type of study where people are assigned to any health-related intervention (e.g. drug, physiotherapy, counselling, etc) and then evaluation is performed on the effects on a health outcome (e.g. increased survival, improved mobility, decreased anxiety, etc). We often think of clinical trials as investigating drug X to cure cancer but really it can include researching any health intervention in humans to determine impact on health.
2) Clinical Trials Have Benefits and Risks
Like any health decision, there are benefits and risks to consider. Some of the perks of enrolling in a clinical trial include accessing expanded treatment options. There is typically no cost to enrolling. You could receive very costly treatment at no cost to you. You are also offered more medical follow up. You’ll be followed closely in an attempt to catch every minor impact on your health due to a change in treatment. Many people find intense follow up very comforting. Lastly, if you participate, you’ll directly contribute to advancing treatment and give back to your cancer community.
Without a doubt, there are risks to consider. The biggest risk – the unknown. As new and novel treatments are being investigated, the potential for side effects and positive results are still being investigated. Clinical trials are also time demanding. As mentioned, intense medical follow up may be beneficial but also time consuming. Depending on your priorities, you may not be willing to sacrifice the time. Lastly, enrolling in a trial means giving up some control. For example, if the trial is to investigate drug X compared to the current drug (considered standard of care), you will not have control over which treatment group you are assigned to.
3) You have the right to decide
When approached to enroll in a clinical trial, it’s most important to remember you have the right to choose. It’s your decision to enroll or not and ONLY your decision. Clinical trial investigators are held to high standards and ethics. They must present you with both the benefits and the risks and then leave the decision in your hands. If you choose to decline enrolling, your current treatment and provider relationships will not be compromised. No need for guilt. No concerns of being reprimanded. The decision is yours.
To learn more about the pros and cons of enrolling in a clinical trial, check out what I had to say in the Heathline podcast which you can find in the Healthline App.
The information shared does not constitute a medical consultation and is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with your doctor or other qualified health provider for questions regarding a medical condition.
Please do not disregard professional health provider advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here. In the event of a medical emergency, call a doctor or 911 immediately.