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Myths vs. Reality

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Heroes of Cancer Research



Years ago, clinical trials offered a last ray of hope to the sickest cancer patients when conventional treatment failed. Today, clinical trials number in the thousands and some patients with common cancers can even enroll in a clinical trial as a first treatment20. Unfortunately, many cancer patients and their families do not understand clinical trials. Our goal is to de-mystify clinical trials so that they are understood and not feared. Here are some of the most common myths:


Since the treatments are randomly assigned, I might get a placebo, or sugar pill, instead of the new treatment. I will be no better off – and possibly even worse off – if I enroll in a trial.


Placebos are rarely used in cancer treatment. Your well-being is a top priority. You will either receive the experimental treatment or the current best standard treatment available so researchers can determine which is more effective.


I’m going to be treated like a guinea pig.


Not so. You will receive continuous, superior health care by a medical team specially trained to treat cancer. You will be regularly monitored by a research nurse that is assigned to you. A recent survey of cancer patients found that 97 percent of the respondents said that they received excellent or good quality care, and were treated with “dignity and respect.” 21


My insurance won’t cover the cost of a clinical trial.


Since medical research is regulated and closely evaluated, many insurance providers cover it. In fact, 79 percent of survey respondents who enrolled in cancer clinical trials reported that their costs were covered by their insurance plan22. Many states have passed laws to require that insurers cover the routine expenses of clinical trials. In June 2000, Medicare was directed to cover the patient care costs of a clinical trial23. Information about what Medicare will cover can be found on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (formerly the Health Care Financing Administration) Web site.