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Cancer research trials| are carried out to try to find new and better treatments for cancer.
Trials that are carried out on patients are known as clinical trials. These may be carried out to:
Trials are the only reliable way to find out if a different operation, type of chemotherapy, radiotherapy or other treatment is better than what is already available.
You may be asked to take part in a treatment research trial. There can be many benefits in doing this. Trials help to improve knowledge about cancer and develop new treatments. You will be carefully monitored during and after the study.
Usually, several hospitals around the country take part in these trials. It’s important to bear in mind that some treatments that look promising at first are often later found not to be as good as existing treatments, or to have side effects that outweigh the benefits.
If you decide not to take part in a trial, your decision will be respected and you don’t have to give a reason. However, it can help to let the staff know your concerns so that they can give you the best advice. There will be no change in the way that you’re treated by the hospital staff, and you’ll be offered the standard treatment for your situation.
Blood and tumour samples may be taken to help make the right diagnosis. You may be asked for your permission to use some of your samples for research into cancer. If you take part in a trial you may also give other samples, which may be frozen and stored for future use when new research techniques become available. Your name will be removed from the samples so you can’t be identified.
The research may be carried out at the hospital where you are treated, or at another one. This type of research takes a long time, and results may not be available for many years.
The samples will be used to increase knowledge about the causes of cancer and its treatment, which will hopefully improve the outlook for future patients.
Because breast cancer in men is very rare, it’s difficult to run large clinical trials that can collect lots of information and study the effects of treatments. A lot of the information about male breast cancer that doctors currently have is based on research on breast cancer in women.
This problem has been identified by a group of specialists from across the world who have come together to form the Male Breast Cancer Programme. The group plans to pool current information on risks, causes and treatments as well as gather tumour samples. This means they will be able to plan more trials in the future.
Content last reviewed: 1 September 2012
Next planned review: 2014
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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