Breast cancer patients and survivors can help others by participating in a clinical trial, also known as a research study. For these procedures, medical professionals test theories and seek answers to specific questions about the diagnosis, treatment, and/or screenings of breast cancer by working with volunteers. These trials rely on gathering information over a determined time period, which can vary from a few days to several years.
Types of Breast Cancer Clinical Trials
Clinical trials fall into four categories:
- Treatment. Medical professionals spend months, often years, on developing and perfecting new medications, therapies, and other forms of treatment for breast cancer. The human patient is asked to try the medication or undergo the procedure in order to test its effectiveness.
- Prevention. Doctors test new ways of protecting against breast cancer on healthy patients.
- Screening. Thesetrials measure the effectiveness ofnew methods for breast cancer diagnosis.
- Quality of Life. This study looks at the best way to care for breast cancer patients through different phases of their illness, treatment, and recovery.
Each trial is administered in four steps, called phases.
- Phase I: The medication or procedure is tried on a small group of participants (approximately 20-80). Doctors look for any side effects and determine the best way to administer the medication, as well as the safest dosage.
- Phase II: Once the results of Phase I are completed successfully, the procedure is then given to a larger number of participants (approximately 50-300) and the results are recorded.
- Phase III: A new medication (or combination of medications), surgical procedure, or other form of treatment is distributed to a larger number of patients. At this phase, the trial subject is made available to more doctors offices, hospitals, and other medical facilities in order to test it on a larger number of breast cancer patients.
Why Should I Participate in a Clinical Trial?
The idea of being studied and tested during a fragile and stressful time of their lives makes many breast cancer patients uneasy. But there are many positive aspects of participating in a clinical trial. The majority of the background research on the medication or procedure is done well before the medical professionals need to measure the results. The patient’s overall health and well-being is closely monitored through every phase of the trial. Some trials require nothing more than asking the patient a few questions; other trials are more intensive and require observing and monitoring patients for a longer period of time.