Cancer 101: Cancer Explained

Quick GuideUnderstanding Cancer: Metastasis, Stages of Cancer, Pictures

Understanding Cancer: Metastasis, Stages of Cancer, Pictures

What are clinical trials and are they an option for me?

Cancer clinical trials (also called cancer treatment studies or research studies) test new treatments for people with cancer. These can be studies of new types of chemotherapy, other types of treatment, or new ways to combine treatments. The goal of all these clinical trials is to find better ways to help people with cancer.

Your doctor or nurse may suggest you take part in a clinical trial. You can also suggest the idea. Before you agree to be in a clinical trial, learn about:

  • Benefits. All clinical trials offer quality cancer care. Ask how this clinical trial could help you or others. For instance, you may be one of the first people to get a new treatment or drug.
  • Risks. New treatments are not always better or even as good as standard treatments. Even if this new treatment is good, it may not work well for you.
  • Payment. Your insurance company may or may not pay for treatment that is part of a clinical trial. Before you agree to be in a trial, check with your insurance company to make sure it will pay for this treatment.

Tips for meeting with your doctor or nurse

  • Make a list of your questions before each appointment. Some people keep a "running list" and write down new questions as they think of them. Make sure to have space on this list to write down the answers from your doctor or nurse.
  • Bring a family member or trusted friend to your medical visits. This person can help you understand what the doctor or nurse says and talk with you about it after the visit is over.
  • Ask all your questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question. If you do not understand an answer, keep asking until you do.
  • Take notes. You can write them down or use a tape recorder. Later, you can review your notes and remember what was said.
  • Ask for printed information about your type of cancer and chemotherapy.
  • Let your doctor or nurse know how much information you want to know, when you want to learn it, and when you have learned enough. Some people want to learn everything they can about cancer and its treatment. Others only want a little information. The choice is yours.
  • Find out how to contact your doctor or nurse in an emergency. This includes who to call and where to go.

Questions to Ask

About My Cancer

  • What kind of cancer do I have?
  • What is the stage of my cancer?

About Chemotherapy

  • Why do I need chemotherapy?
  • What is the goal of this chemotherapy?
  • What are the benefits of chemotherapy?
  • What are the risks of chemotherapy?
  • Are there other ways to treat my type of cancer?
  • What is the standard care for my type of cancer?
  • Are there any clinical trials for my type of cancer?

About My Treatment

  • How many cycles of chemotherapy will I get?
  • How long is each treatment?
  • How long between treatments?
  • What types of chemotherapy will I get?
  • How will these drugs be given?
  • Where do I go for this treatment?
  • How long does each treatment last?
  • Should someone drive me to and from treatments?

About Side Effects

  • What side effects can I expect right away?
  • What side effects can I expect later?
  • How serious are these side effects?
  • How long will these side effects last?
  • Will all the side effects go away when treatment is over?
  • What can I do to manage or ease these side effects?
  • What can my doctor or nurse do to manage or ease these side effects?
  • When should I call my doctor or nurse about these side effects?

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