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    Clinical Trials for Breast Cancer

    Should you or shouldn't you? Weighing the pros and cons of joining a breast cancer clinical trial.

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    "Many smaller community hospitals and cancer centers have trials available to them, either on their own or as part of larger cooperative groups," says Winer.

    Before signing up for a clinical trial, find out as much as possible about what's involved. Here are some important questions to ask, according to Clinicaltrials.gov -- a web site sponsored by the National Institutes of Health:

    • What is the purpose of the study, and who will be in it?
    • What kind of experimental treatment is involved, and has it been tested before?
    • What are the possible risks, side effects, and benefits compared with my current treatment?
    • How long will the trial last, and how will it affect my daily life?
    • Will the trial mean any extra costs to me compared with standard treatment?
    • Who will be in charge of my care?
    • How will I know if the treatment is working? Will results of the trials be provided to me?

    Some of your best sources for finding clinical trials:

    • The National Institutes of Health. www.clinicaltrials.gov
      This NIH-sponsored web site provides regularly updated information about federally and privately supported clinical research with human volunteers.
    • The National Cancer Institute. www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials
      Call 800-4-CANCER, or visit the NCI's own web-based gateway to cancer-related clinical trials. This site also offers a step-by-step guide on choosing a cancer clinical trial.
    • The Coalition of National Cancer Cooperative Groups. www.cancertrialshelp.org
      Run by a network of cancer clinical trials specialists, this site's Trialcheck search tool finds the trials best suited to you based on a series of questions.

    Remember, the current "gold standard" treatments that you're benefiting from now wouldn't be available if other women hadn't joined clinical trials.

    "I don't think we can say this enough. By participating in a trial, women with breast cancer are adding to knowledge that will help countless other women in the future," says Winer.

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