Advances in cancer treatment depend on clinical trials of new therapies or new therapy combination. Researchers can design a clinical trial to test new treatment that improves response or quality of life for patients at any treatment stage.
Talk to your doctor about whether treatment in a clinical trial is a good option for you.
How to Gather Information
Make any treatment decisions in consultation with your doctor. You may also want to speak with one or more specialists before deciding on treatment.
To learn more about your disease and treatment options, you can get information from several sources, including:
- Medical news articles
- Reports of scientific studies about treatment safety and effectiveness
You can find medical news and scientific research articles in newspapers, magazines, on the Internet and in medical journals. However, make sure the information you read is from a reliable source.
Scientific research should answer three questions:
- What was the purpose of the research study?
- How was the research conducted?
- What did the researchers find? In other words, what were the results?
How to Read a Research Study
A scientific or medical journal article is usually organized in the following sections:
- The abstract provides a quick summary and overview.
- The introduction describes what the researchers want to learn by conducting the research study.
- The methods section, also called research methods or methodology, provides information about the quality of the research study. It discusses:
- The characteristics of the research participants
- The method used to collect data
- The method used to conduct the research study
- The results section describes the study's specific and detailed findings.
- The discussion section summarizes the researchers' conclusions and suggested steps for future research.
- The reference section lists sources cited in the article.
Does the Research Apply to You?
Look for certain types of information about the people who participated in the research study. If you're reading a medical journal article, check the methods section.
Patient characteristics that may affect the study results (outcome) include:
- Diagnosis, disease subtype and risk factors
- Disease stage
- Treatment stage
- Age and overall health
Getting the Most from the Study
When using the study results to help you consider your treatment choices, keep the following facts in mind:
- Research results can show you how other people with a similar disease responded to different treatments, but they can't predict how any one person will respond. The results of studies with fewer participants are considered less accurate predictions of likely outcomes for other patients.
- Response rates and survival data for patients treated five or more years ago may not accurately predict what patients can expect today. Long-term survival rates are not yet available for the newest treatments. At least five years must pass after the first groups of patients receive a specific treatment to establish the five-year survival rate for that treatment.
- Survival data alone doesn’t cover potential side effects or complications of a treatment. In fact, two treatments with similar survival rates may have different results when it comes to side effects, long-term effects and quality of life.
Talk with Your Doctor
Discuss all your treatment options with your doctor to ensure that you fully understand:
- The expected benefits
- The risks of side effects and complications
Ask your doctor for guidance in interpreting studies. You may also want to consider a second opinion consult.
Click here to download lists of suggested questions to ask your healthcare providers.