On Trial(s)

Family Health, Power to the Patient
on October 1, 2009
Woman getting mamogram.
Thinkstock
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In November 1996, I was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, which often has a grim prognosis. Chemotherapy put me into remission, but my cancer returned two years later. The second time around, I enrolled in a research study of an experimental medical treatment, and I’ve been in remission ever since. Clinical trials aren’t without risks and there’s no guarantee they will be effective, but finding the right one could save a life. How to find one that might work for you.

  • Know your cancer. Ask your doctor exactly what type of cancer you have (mine was follicular non-Hodgkin lymphoma) to help you narrow down which trial is right for you.
  • Be proactive. I did my research in the pre-Google years, but these days you can find loads of info on the Internet. Online, start with cancer.gov/clinicaltrials and clinicaltrials.gov.
  • Network. Arm yourself with as much information as you can¨ÛI called clinics, cancer organizations and support groups to ask about trials.
  • Go to the source. Once you find a trial, contact the drug company for the results of any earlier trials, how the drug compares with the current standard treatment for your cancer and a list of potential risks and side effects.
  • Stay positive. All this information can be daunting, but remind yourself that being proactive can help you live a longer, healthier, happier life — I’m proof!