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What Are the Potential Benefits and Risks of Participating in a Clinical Trial?

Updated September 27, 2010

When you think about the option of having breast cancer treatment on a clinical trial, balance what you might gain with drawbacks that could affect you. Consider these issues as you make treatment decisions:

Potential Benefits

  • You may have access to new medicines, combinations of medicines or methods that are not available to you outside of the trial.
  • You will always receive at least the current standard recommended treatment for the type of breast cancer you have.
  • Your cancer treatment is closely monitored by study doctors and nurses, often more closely than in standard care. An independent Data Safety and Monitoring Board also safeguards your care.
  • Some trials give you access to medicines, complementary treatments or supportive therapies for no charge.
  • All new breast cancer treatments must go through the clinical trial process. You may feel good knowing that your participation could help other women affected by breast cancer.

Possible Risks or Drawbacks

  • The new treatment being tested might not be more effective than the standard.
  • Even if the new treatment is shown to be more effective, it might not work for you.
  • You may have side effects that are worse than those in standard treatment or that researchers did not know about.
  • In a randomized trial (participants randomly assigned to treatment groups), you won’t be able to choose your treatment.
  • There may be costs for medicines, tests and doctor visits related to the trial that your health insurance might not cover.
  • You may need to take extra time off from work or your personal life, or have more travel or childcare costs, because of more frequent doctor visits or distance to the research site.
  • Each trial has its own eligibility requirements. You might not be eligible to join a specific study if you previously had treatment or if it requires that you not have a certain medical condition.

Read more about clinical trials and the providers who helped us write this page in our Guide to Understanding Breast Cancer Treatment Research Studies.

Denver, CO  ·  September 13, 2014

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