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When making treatment decisions, your oncologist may encourage you to consider participating in a clinical trial. A clinical trial is a research study that tests whether a new treatment is safe, effective and better than the standard treatment.
Those who participate in clinical trials are often among the first to receive new treatments, before they are widely available. However, there is no guarantee that a new treatment will be safe, effective or better than the standard treatment.
People decide to participate in clinical trials for many reasons. For some people with breast cancer, a clinical trial is the best treatment option available. Because standard treatments may not be optimal for some patients, they are often willing to face the added uncertainty of a clinical trial in the hope of a better result. Other people volunteer for clinical trials because they know these studies are the only way to make progress in treating breast cancer. Even if they will not benefit directly from the clinical trial, their participation may help other people with breast cancer in the future.
If you decide to participate in a clinical trial, you will participate in a process called informed consent. During informed consent, the doctor should list all of your options and help you understand how the new treatment is different from the standard treatment. The doctor must also list all of the risks of the new treatment, which may or may not be different from the risks of the standard treatment. Finally, the doctor must explain what will be required of each patient in order to participate in the clinical trial, including the number of doctor visits, tests, the treatment schedule, and the associated costs.
Keep in mind, even if you decide to participate in a clinical trial, you may stop participating at any time for any personal or medical reason.