Clinical trials are designed to make the risks as low as possible and the benefits as great as possible for all the people who take part, whichever treatment they get.
Taking part in a trial means that you may be given a new treatment that works better than the standard treatment. The new treatment might not otherwise be available yet because it does not have its license. You’ll also be helping doctors find out which treatments may benefit future patients.
When you take part in a trial, you’ll be followed up very carefully during and after the study. Your doctors will probably want you to have regular tests, such as blood tests, and you may be asked some extra questions about how you’re feeling. This means that any changes in your health – whether or not they are related to the treatment you’re having – can be noticed and dealt with as soon as possible. Some patients find this reassuring. Others would prefer not to have more hospital visits and therefore would rather not take part in trials.
With any clinical trial, there is always a small risk that the treatment could harm you or that you could experience side effects that are unpleasant or unexpected. During the trial, researchers make every effort to minimise these risks.
Taking part in a trial may mean going to your hospital or GP more often than you would normally, so bear this in mind before you agree to take part. Attending the hospital can be tiring and the extra travel may cost a lot of money. Ask your doctor how many extra visits will be needed and think about how convenient this will be for you. You can also ask whether the research trial will pay for your additional travel costs, and how you can claim.
Making a decision
If you are finding it difficult to decide whether or not to join a clinical trial, it may be helpful to talk things through with your doctor or nurse. You might also find it helpful to speak with your family and friends as they may be able to help talk things through with you. Sometimes something as simple as writing a list of pros and cons can be helpful.
It is important to know there is no right or wrong decision. Any decision you make will be the right one for you at the time. If you need more support, you can call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 to talk to our cancer support specialists.
We have more helpful information and advice about making treatment decisions.