4 Common Misconceptions about Breast Cancer Clinical Trials

Calendar Icon March 21, 2021
Reading Time Icon Read Time: 5 min
By Ciitizen

For any breast cancer patient who is seeking out novel yet effective forms of treatment, a clinical trial can be one of the fastest and easiest ways to gain direct access to groundbreaking treatment:

“In the first large scale breast cancer prevention study ever conducted, the NSABP’s P-1 trial demonstrated that tamoxifen given to healthy women at an increased risk for the future development of breast cancer, can reduce the incidence of the disease by close to 50%.

“These results presented in 1998, were a huge first step and established the principle that breast cancer is a preventable disease.”

Despite the promise of clinical trials to those who have breast cancer, fewer than one in twenty patients actually enroll.

The primary reason for this disparity is the belief in misconceptions that can easily be debunked and addressed, misunderstandings that can deprive breast cancer patients of receiving a greater standard of care and benefiting from a new line of treatment.

This article will address four common misconceptions about breast cancer clinical trials and equip you with the knowledge needed to find a clinical trial that is right for you.

Misconceptions about Breast Cancer Clinical Trials #1: Clinical Trials Are Not Truly Effective

Clinical trials are widely regarded by the medical community as the “gold standard” of evidence, meaning that they are some of the most rigorous methods of evaluating how effective new treatments really are.

Besides evaluating a new drug or procedure, many other useful benefits mutually serve both the patient and the physician:

“Clinical trials are an important step in discovering new treatments for breast cancer and other diseases as well as new ways to detect, diagnose, and reduce the risk of disease. . . . Clinical trials also help researchers and doctors decide if the side effects of a new treatment are acceptable when weighed against the benefits offered by the new treatment.”

As noted by non-profit organization BreastCancer.org, every treatment examined in a breast cancer trial must undergo a minimum of six years of study before it is ever used in humans.

Therefore, patients are provided with treatment routes that they may not otherwise receive in an ordinary medical setting. Patients also receive a higher level of prioritization with respect to clinical treatment, so they get the best care possible, regardless of the outcome pertaining to a specific drug/treatment being studied.

Additionally, the National Cancer Institute reports that an improved survivability rate of over five years following diagnosis is observed in 90% of those with early-stage breast cancer, which is directly attributable to clinical trials and modern-day medicine.

Many other diseases are also virtually non-existent because of the results generated by clinical trials:

“[I]t was a randomized trial of the Salk polio vaccine in over 600,000 school children that led to the approval of the first preventive treatment for that disease, and with the later addition of an oral vaccine, polio has been nearly eradicated in the US.

“Likewise, measles was nearly eliminated by a vaccine tested in clinical trials, and clinical trials and their participants also contributed to the scientific foundation for tuberculosis policies still adhered to today.

“Consequently, without clinical trials, ‘these diseases would still be a danger to America’s children today.’”

In short, any additional level of participation can make a significant difference for you and other breast cancer patients around the world.

Misconception #2: Participation Is Mandatory

One of the most popular misconceptions about breast cancer clinical trials is the belief that once patients begin participating in a clinical trial, they will be forced to stay against their will.

This cannot happen because it is ethically and medically against best practices for clinicians and investigators to do so.

At any time, you have the right to withdraw for any reason, whether you have a personal objection or an adverse reaction to the treatment that you are receiving. If you feel a specific treatment is not working for you, you are allowed to switch to a standard form of treatment instead of being given the experimental drug/treatment being studied.

Your rights and freedoms in a clinical trial will be spelled out to you in plain language, and a physician will go over every single detail that is pertinent to you. This is known as “informed consent,” where the following information will be shared with you:

  • The benefits and risks associated with both standard treatment and the new form of treatment under investigation
  • The degree of your participation: how many tests will be run, the exact schedule of treatment you will follow, the number of visits you will have with your physician, etc.

Regardless of whether you participate in a clinical duration completely or partially, your experience will be pivotal in helping clinicians assess the benefits and the risks of novel therapies.

Misconception #3: If I Receive a Placebo, I Won’t Get Adequate Care

One of the main benefits for breast cancer patients entering clinical trials is that they are in a unique “win-win-win” situation.

In any clinical trial you enroll in, you will find yourself in one of three situations.

  • Situation #1: You are receiving the experimental treatment being tested while also receiving prioritized care and attention toward your recovery from breast cancer.
  • Situation #2: You are receiving an existing treatment that has already been proven to work in prior clinical trials and has likely been approved by medical authorities to treat your specific stage and/or variant of breast cancer.
  • Situation #3: In extremely rare circumstances, you receive a placebo (i.e., something that will not impact the progression of your breast cancer) if no alternative treatments currently exist.

Contrary to popular belief, the third situation does not mean that you won’t be receiving treatment at all. In fact, you will be receiving the gold standard of current care, and your attending physician will prioritize your health and well-being.

In any of these three scenarios, you will be fully aware of whether a placebo exists in a clinical trial well before you give your consent to participating.

This goes back to the point of “informed consent,” where a patient is entitled to full and complete transparency of all treatment options and what they may receive.

To reiterate, you are receiving a higher level of treatment no matter which scenario you find yourself in.

Misconception #4: It’s Too Hard to Find the Right Clinical Trial

Many breast cancer patients struggle to find clinical trials that meet several essential criteria:

  • Information regarding the clinical trial is easily accessible through the internet (via a quick straightforward search on Google) or their physician.
  • The clinical trial must take place in a location that is convenient for the patient to visit frequently.
  • The clinical trial must investigate a new form of treatment that specifically pertains to the patient’s stage and/or variation of breast cancer.
  • Private health information must be kept private and confidential at all times between the patient and relevant clinical trial investigators and never shared or sold to third-party entities.
  • The clinical trial must practice informed consent to the highest level regarding benefits and risks of treatment options, insurance coverage, costs incurred to the patient, etc.

Thanks to the advancements in medical technology and the digitization of health records, it is easier than ever for breast cancer patients to match up with clinical trials most relevant to their needs.

Many services in existence specialize in accelerating the transition between finding the right clinical trial and enrolling in what could be a life-changing treatment protocol. All the patient has to do is submit their eligibility criteria, and the service will take care of the entire discovery process.

Conclusion: It’s Never Been Easier or Faster for Breast Cancer Patients to Find Personalized Clinical Trials

With the most common misconceptions about breast cancer clinical trials debunked, we hope that you are empowered to take the next step in treating your breast cancer diagnosis.

Clinical trials continue to be the most reliable and safest form of study that we have for rapidly discovering highly effective treatments for extending the lifespan of breast cancer patients and improving their overall quality of life.

If you are looking for a free service provider to help you get matched with clinical trials that best fit your needs, we highly recommend signing up with Ciitizen.

Our comprehensive matching program screens your personal medical data against more than 500 ongoing breast cancer clinical trials in the United States to find the best match for you, factoring in your location and your qualifications.

Upon receiving a successful match, you will receive a personalized notification via email or text with all available trials that you pre-qualify for. All you have to do is share your personalized treatment history with us, and we’ll take care of the matching process.

To learn more, please visit ciitizen.com/TouchClinicalTrials.

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