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If you have advanced prostate cancer, you may be wondering if you should try an experimental drug. To do this you need to enroll in a clinical trial.

There are risks as well as potential benefits to clinical trials. Before you enroll it helps to understand what clinical trials are and what to expect.

What is a clinical trial?

Clinical trials test the safety and effectiveness of new drugs and procedures.

It's important to know that if you join a clinical trial, you may not actually get the experimental treatment. That's because you will be randomly assigned to one of two groups:

  • Patients who receive the new treatment
  • Patients who get the normal treatment or a placebo ("dummy" drug)

Researchers follow the patients in both groups and compare how they are doing. That way they can check how well the new drug works.

What are the benefits of participating in a clinical trial?

If you're in a clinical trial, you may be given drugs that are not available elsewhere. These treatments may be more helpful than your current treatment.

But even if you are in the group getting the "dummy" drugs, there may be benefits to a clinical trial.

Patients in a clinical trial receive thorough care and attention from the health care team responsible for the trial.

Some clinical trials may also cover part or all of your medical costs during the course of the trial.

Finally, by participating in a trial, you can make a real contribution to cancer research and help future prostate cancer patients live longer.

What are the risks of participating in a clinical trial?

Although you may have access to the latest treatment if you take part in a clinical trial, that treatment may not work as well as standard treatments now available.

There's also a risk of side effects from the experimental drug. And those side effects may be worse than the side effects of your current treatment.