Clinical trials for cancer are used to look for better ways to treat cancer and help improve cancer care. Thousands of people world-wide are helped each year because they took part in a clinical trial. Millions more benefit from the advances in cancer care made possible by clinical trials.

Deciding whether or not to participate in a clinical trial is a very personal choice. To make an informed choice, it’s important to get good information. There are many misconceptions about clinical trials. The Lance Armstrong Foundation interviewed Margo Michaels from ENACCT (www.enacct.org). In the video interview (http://livestrongblog.org/2009/12/16/myths-about-clinical-trials/), she debunks six common myths about clinical trials.

Here are some of the key points from the video and the Canadian Cancer Society’s booklet “Clinical Trials: A guide for people with cancer”.

Myth #1: Some people in a trial are given a sugar pill or placebo instead of appropriate treatment for the cancer.

That may be true in other diseases, but placebo treatment is never used in cancer. It would be unethical to put a cancer patient on a placebo when treatment is available. Everyone in a cancer clinical trial gets treatment. You may receive the new treatment or you may get the best standard treatment available for your type and stage of cancer.

Myth #2: If you’re in a clinical trial and not doing well that is just tough. You have to stay in the trial.

Absolutely not. A patient can leave a clinical trial at any time for any reason. Also, your doctor may also suggest you leave the trial if the treatment you are getting is not helping you. If becomes clear that the new treatment is better than the other treatment before the trial is complete, it will be stopped and everyone in the trial will be given the new treatment.

Myth #3: I won’t get quality care if I take part in a clinical trial.

Not true. In fact, both patients and experts in the field say that cancer care can be enhanced for people taking part in a clinical trial because of the extra attention they get. Every cough, every rash or other side effect that you may have is closely followed, perhaps more so than if you were following standard treatment and not in a clinical trial.

Myth #4: I’ll be a guinea pig if I agree to be in a clinical trial.

Patient safety and well-being are the first priority of the researchers conducting the trial. To participate in a trial you will be asked to sign a consent form. This form clearly outlines the possible risks and benefits of being on a clinical trial. You will also receive important information during the trial. Patients have the right to say yes or no at any time during the trial without any prejudice to their future medical treatment. You will always be given the best care.

Myth #5: My doctor will recommend a clinical trial to me if there is one available.

Unfortunately that isn’t always the case. Many doctors don’t know about or refer to clinical trials. It is important that you find out about your options for care and that may include clinical trials. You should be given all options no matter what point of treatment you are at – your very first treatment or treatment you may get after other treatments have failed. A clinical trial may be an option at any stage of your treatment.

Visit www.canadiancancertrials.ca to find a Canadian cancer trial.

Myth #6: People take part in clinical trials only when all other treatment options have failed.

That is a big misconception. Clinical trials can also be for first treatments. In fact, if you are not given that option early on, you may be ineligible for some trials later on. The best time to learn about a clinical trial is when you are first making your treatment decisions.

Cancer treatment trials are not the only kind of trial. Trials are also used to help improve cancer prevention, cancer screening and quality of life (for example, studying ways to manage a side effect of treatment).

For more myths and facts about clinical trials, visit http://www.cancertrialshelp.org/Icare_content/icMainContent.aspx?intAppMode=7

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