Making Decisions About Participating in a Cancer Clinical Trial

Dec 21, 2017

The following is adapted from the Cancer.Net article “Getting Treatment in a Clinical Trial.”

After a cancer diagnosis, patients and their families have to make a number of decisions about treatment and care. These decisions are complicated by feelings of anxiety, unfamiliar words, statistics, and a sense of urgency. That is why it is important, unless the situation is urgent, for patients to take time to research their options, ask questions, and talk with family and friends.

Decisions about cancer treatment are personal, and patients need to feel comfortable with their choices, including the choice to participate in a clinical trial. But many people don’t know where to start. On ASCO’s patient education website, Cancer.Net, patients can find answers to some commonly asked questions about joining a clinical trial, including:

Does being in a clinical trial mean there is no cure?

Some clinical trials need volunteers who have not tried certain treatments yet. Well-known treatments are still available, but the clinical trial might also help, so you might want to try the clinical trial treatment first.

Some clinical trials are for people when regular treatments did not work. There is a chance that the treatment being researched might help. Or it might not. It is important to talk with your health care team about the possible benefits and risks for you.

How do I decide whether to participate in a clinical trial?

First, you need to learn:

  • What clinical trials are available or “open” for people with your type of cancer.
  • Which clinical trials might be right for you.
  • The possible risks and benefits of being in the clinical trial.
  • Any costs of being in the clinical trial, including what is covered by the clinical trial and your health insurance.

You can ask your health care team or the clinical trial research team these questions.

Clinical trial resources on Cancer.Net

To learn more, patients and their loved ones can visit to find information explaining what clinical trials are, how they are conducted, and what costs are covered by health insurance. You can also find a list of questions to ask your health care team about clinical trials.

In addition, you can watch a free series of educational videos on Cancer.Net, called Preparatory Education about Clinical Trials, or PRE-ACT.

Cancer.Net provides timely, comprehensive, oncologist-approved information from ASCO, with support from the Conquer Cancer Foundation. Cancer.Net brings the expertise and resources of ASCO to people living with cancer and those who care for and about them to help patients and families make informed health care decisions.

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