Deciding to Join a Clinical Trial
Like all treatment options, clinical trials have possible benefits and risks. By looking closely at all treatment options, including clinical trials, you are taking an active role in a decision that affects your life. We encourage you to do some research and decide (with the help of your doctor) if a clinical trial is the right course of treatment for you. Below are some things to consider when making your decision.
What are my treatment options?
Your treatment options may include:
- Standard treatment: There are standard treatments for most types of cancer. They change over time as doctors learn from experience, research, and clinical trial studies.
- Clinical trials: Many clinical trials are for new medicines or treatments. In these trials, doctors may look at new ways to give the treatments, study different doses, or test treatments in different types of cancer.
Risk versus benefit
All clinical trials have risks and benefits. You may benefit from participating in a clinical trial in one of the following ways:
- If the new treatment works, you may be one of the first people to benefit.
- You may be able to help future patients with your same diagnosis.
- The trial sponsor may pay for your medical care and tests.
- You'll likely see your doctor more often so they can monitor your disease and check for side effects.
Some possible risks include:
- Side effects may be worse than those of approved/standard treatments.
- Side effects may occur that the doctor does not expect.
- The new treatment may not work for you, even if it works for other patients.
- You may need extra tests, need to track symptoms, or be required to visit your doctor more often. Some of the tests could be uncomfortable or time-consuming. Extra visits may mean additional expenses related to travel and childcare.
- Health insurance may not cover all the costs of participating in the trial.
Before you decide whether or not to participate in a clinical trial, you should understand what will be paid for and what may be your responsibility. All clinical trials are different. The trial sponsor may pay for the new treatment, extra tests, and extra doctor visits needed for the trial. Some sponsors may even reimburse you for your travel time or mileage.
The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance to cover the routine costs of care for people in approved clinical trials. Routine costs include tests and doctor visits you would need even if you weren't in the trial. Insurers are not allowed to drop or limit coverage because a person chooses to take part in a clinical trial.
If your insurance does not pay for parts of the clinical trial, ask your doctor or clinical trial sponsor about other options. Sponsors may be willing to cover some of the costs your insurance does not. For financial assistance programs and resources, visit our Financial Assistance Resources page.
Other helpful resources
Here are two additional resources you may find helpful when considering clinical trials.
- PRE-ACT (Preparatory Education about Clinical Trials) is an educational program designed to help patients better understand clinical trials and how they work.
- Triage Cancer's Quick Guide to Clinical Trials provides information to help you learn more about participating in a clinical trial, dispel myths about clinical trials, and help you find clinical trials that might be available to you.
Find a clinical trial
Visit our Find a Clinical Trial webpage for more information about how to find a trial, how to know if you are eligible, and questions to ask to determine if it's right for you.