Clinical trials and the research backing them could potentially lead to breakthrough therapies for cancer patients. This article outlines how to get involved in clinical trials for breast cancer, what they are, what you need to participate in, things you should know, and misconceptions.
Understanding Clinical Trials for Breast Cancer
Breast cancer clinical trials are volunteer opportunities that help researchers and doctors discover new and improved treatments. These could include testing new alternative medicines, drugs, or surgeries. The research may be comparing new treatment options against old ones. Clinical trials for breast cancer help:
- Drive cancer treatment progress
- Give patients chances to undergo experimental treatments before they receive approval for general use
- Provide a proven way for patients to receive high-quality care and treatment
- Provide opportunities for patients to contribute to research and help future cancer patients
- Provide opportunities for patients to involve themselves in studies that advance cancer care
How to Get Involved in Clinical Trials for Breast Cancer
Unfortunately, even when patients want to get involved in clinical trials for breast cancer, they often face barriers. Evidence of this includes the fact that older patients, people of color, and people from lower economic and social groups are typically not enrolling in these trials.
There are several steps that patients must take to get involved with clinical trials for breast cancer.
Step 1: Research—Independently and with Doctors
The patient’s research should start with a discussion with their doctor. They should receive information about trials that they might be eligible for and when those are happening. Patients can also search online for cancer trials or use resources like Ciitizen’s location tool.
Step 2: Understanding Eligibility
No two breast cancer patients are alike, and this is also true for breast cancer clinical trials. Patients must check the eligibility criteria to see if they can participate. This information is usually found in the clinical trial’s listing. It often includes criteria like age, cancer advancement, cancer type, and gender.
Step 3: Speak to an Organizer
After a patient finds a cancer clinical trial that they believe that they’re eligible for, it’s time to contact one of the trial’s organizers. They’ll talk to the patient about the trial and if they meet the eligibility requirements for participation. If the organizer feels that the patient is a good match, they’ll set up an appointment with them for a consultation and physical examination.
Step 4: Understand the Trial’s Protocols
Every cancer clinical trial must follow specific protocols. This plan of action outlines what researchers plan to do during the study. This way, breast cancer patients know what to expect and can protect their health. These protocols also set guidelines that researchers must follow when collecting the information that they need.
Why Breast Cancer Patients Choose to Participate
Clinical trials are critical for learning about new drugs, surgeries, therapies, and treatments for breast cancer patients. People may choose to participate for many reasons, including:
- If patients have a difficult-to-treat or rare type of breast cancer
- If their cancer returns after undergoing treatment or if after receiving a diagnosis, their cancer spreads
- When patients want to ensure that they have access to the newest breast cancer treatments
- When patients want to be part of vital research that advances future cancer treatments
What You Need to Have to Participate
Patients must meet specific criteria before participating in a clinical trial. Researchers set requirements to ensure patient safety and improve outcomes. These differ per clinical trial according to specifications like age, health conditions, stage of cancer, and more.
Participation in cancer clinical trials also involves patients participating in informed consent. During this process, doctors should tell breast cancer patients about:
- Their treatment options and how they differ from any current treatments
- The potential risks for the new treatment
- The patient’s requirements for participation, including the treatment’s schedule and number of tests and visits
Misconceptions about Breast Cancer Clinical Trials
It isn’t uncommon for patients to hear misconceptions when figuring out how to get involved in clinical trials for breast cancer. Therefore, it’s challenging for researchers to find participants. Let’s look at the most common myths and debunk them with facts:
- Myth: Patients receive a placebo.
- Fact: They do not; placebos are not part of clinical trials for breast cancer.
- Myth: Only doctors can recommend breast cancer clinical trials.
- Fact: While doctors and care teams are excellent resources, they may not know about trials in a patient’s area or their benefits. The patient is the best judge (and advocate) for these choices.
- Myth: Breast cancer clinical trials aren’t effective.
- Fact: Researchers must spend at least six years examining the treatments in the trial before involving patients.
Because no two breast cancer patients are alike, it’s impossible to find a one-size-fits-all cancer clinical trial. Clinical trials for breast cancer provide patients with opportunities to receive new treatments, therapies, medications, and surgeries before these can get approved for general use. Ciitizen is a free service that helps you keep your medical information organized so you can find and get involved in clinical trials for breast cancer.
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