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Clinical trials are how researchers find better ways to treat cancer. If you are thinking about joining a clinical trial, you may feel nervous or unsure. This is normal. But the more you know about what to expect, the more comfortable you’ll be about your decision. This fact sheet will cover the following:

  • Where to find clinical trials
  • Questions to ask your doctors about clinical trials
  • Important things to keep in mind

Where Do You Find Clinical Trials?

Clinical trials are tests to see how much better a new treatment works than the current standard. People in clinical trials are among the first to receive new treatments and are closely monitored by doctors and other researchers.

Your doctor should know if there are clinical trials for someone with your type and stage of cancer. You can also find listings of clinical trials through resources such as:

National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service


EmergingMed Clinical Trial Navigation Service

How Do I Know If a Clinical Trial Is Right For Me?

If a clinical trial is available, you may want to learn as much as possible about the trial. Here are some questions to ask your health care team:

  • What is the purpose for the clinical trial?
  • What kinds of tests and treatments are involved?
  • What are the possible risks, side effects and benefits to the study?
  • How long will the study last?
  • How might this study affect my daily life?
  • Who will pay for the treatment? Will the trial, or my insurance, cover all or part of it?
  • Will I have to travel? Will I be paid back for any expenses, such as transportation?
  • How will I know that the treatment being studied is working? Will the results be given to me?

Tips for Learning the Most About Your Clinical Trial

Learn as much as you can. Before you sign up, make sure you understand exactly what treatment is being offered. Ask how it is different from the usual treatment for your cancer. Ask about new side effects of the treatment that is being studied. This information will help you make an informed decision.

Understand what your insurance does and does not cover. Many insurance companies do not include coverage for expenses related to clinical trials. While the clinic will cover the cost of any drugs under study, you might need to ask your insurer for coverage for the other costs related to the trial.

Learn about your rights and protections. You will have rights and protections about your privacy and well-being. You will have documents to sign, such as an ‘informed consent’ form. You also have the right to leave the clinical trial at any time.

Talk to an oncology social worker as you consider your options. Often, you may need someone to talk with who will help you. An oncology social worker can help with emotional and practical concerns. They help you find ways to stick with treatment and cope with side effects and refer you to resources.

CancerCare provides free counseling from professional oncology social workers who can help you understand what enrolling in a clinical trial means for you and your family. To speak with one of CancerCare’s oncology social workers, call 800-813-HOPE (4673).

Edited by Marissa Fors, LCSW, OSW-C

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This fact sheet is supported by the Anna Fuller Fund, Bristol Myers Squibb and a grant from Genentech.

Last updated Tuesday, June 27, 2023

The information presented in this publication is provided for your general information only. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultations with qualified health professionals who are aware of your specific situation. We encourage you to take information and questions back to your individual health care provider as a way of creating a dialogue and partnership about your cancer and your treatment.

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