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Cancer Health Center

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Many Patients Don’t Take Part in Cancer Studies

Study Shows Doctors Often Fail to Tell Patients About Ongoing Clinical Trials

Why Doctors Don’t Tell Patients About Trials continued...

Some patients may be unwilling to participate in clinical trials, but if they are unaware of these trials, they may not be able to make the most informed decision about their treatment.

“When a patient is diagnosed with any disease, especially one as terrifying as cancer, and hears that there is an established standard treatment, there is a tendency to tune out any limitations,” Saltz says. “Doctors, wanting to be optimists, may not offer a whole lot of information on these limitations unless asked.”

“There is also the tendency to think about trials only after all else has failed, but by this time many people are no longer candidates or are too sick to participate,” he says.

Concern Over Random Treatment

Sometimes people are concerned that studies often randomly assign treatments to different groups of patients. Trials may compare standard care with the experimental treatment, but it is luck of the draw as to who gets which therapy.

“This is necessary, and the right way to do the study, but on the other hand, a fair number will say they are uncomfortable with it and not willing to leave the decision to chance,” he says.

Informed consent on the part of the patient is critical, he says.

When discussing clinical trial participation, Saltz says, “If you go on the study, it is because we hope it will be the right thing for you, and we will evaluate as we go always have the right to opt out. You can never say a trial is better for a patient because if we knew it was better, it wouldn’t be a trial.”

While clinical trials have advanced cancer care, “first and foremost, you owe it to yourself and people around you to make the best decision for you,” he says.

Making an Informed Decision

Lori M. Minasian, ND, the chief of the National Cancer Institute’s Community Oncology and Prevention Trials Research Group, co-authored an editorial that accompanies the new study.

“Most people learn about clinical trials from their physicians, and many do Internet searches when they are looking for newer or better approaches than the standard approach and some hear about trials that use public advertisement to recruit specific patient populations,” she says in an email.

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