How do I decide whether to take part in a clinical trial?

You need to feel you have been given enough information to help you decide whether or not to take part in a clinical trial.

The main benefits of taking part in a clinical trial include:

  • you may receive a new treatment before it becomes widely available
  • you will be closely monitored (patients on clinical trials often receive more attention)
  • helping future patients with cancer

The disadvantages of taking part in a clinical trial include:

  • you may have more appointments at the hospital than if you weren’t in a clinical trial
  • new treatments may have side effects or risks that doctors were not expecting
  • participants in randomised trials will not be able to choose which treatment they receive

The importance of information

Trials need to be a team effort to make sure they are successful. If you decide to take part, you are an essential member of this team. You must be given all the information you want, you must understand what will happen, and you must freely agree to take part.

Your doctor or researcher should discuss the following points with you:

  • what type of trial it is, why it is being done and how it was planned
  • an explanation of how the trial will affect you; for example, how long the trial will last or any extra tests or hospital visits
  • the meaning of the words and phrases that are used
  • the benefits, risks and all other treatment options available to you
  • the safeguards which exist to protect you
  • who you should contact if you have any concerns or problems
  • how to find out the results of the research, if you want to do so

See a list of other questions you should consider.

You may find it helpful to discuss the details of a trial with a research nurse. If you wish to know more or don’t understand what has been said, please ask.