Talking To Your Oncologist About Clinical Trials
You’ve gotten a cancer diagnosis. You’ve selected an oncologist as your partner, hoping for an outcome that includes “No Evidence of Disease,” or NED (NED is every cancer patient’s very best friend). You and your oncologist are working up a treatment plan, and you want to talk about clinical trials as part of that plan. Your treatment plan can include anything from standard of care chemotherapy, to complementary treatments like massage to manage side effects of chemo, to clinical trials, depending on the type and staging of your cancer. Should you kick off a discussion of clinical trials, or wait until your oncologist brings it up?
Start The Conversation
YES, definitely bring up clinical trials yourself, if your oncologist hasn’t done so. If you’re not sure how to kick off that discussion, here are some tips:
- “Just do it.” Lace up your mental Nikes, and just ask the question. Better yet, you could show up at your next office visit with Cure Forward’s explainer one-sheet for oncologists, along with the information on clinical trials on the site.
- There’s an article in the Journal of Oncology Practice, “Identifying and Selecting a Clinical Trial for Your Practice,” that talks clinicians through the process of selecting clinical trials for their oncology practice. Reading through that can help you craft some great questions, and open a productive conversation with your treatment team about clinical trials for your cancer.
- The National Institutes of Health has a great tip-sheet for oncologists on how to talk to their patients about clinical trials. You can use that to frame the conversation you’d like to have with your own oncologist about your clinical trial options.
- I’ve often found that reading articles and tip-sheets aimed at the clinical side of the equation have helped me accelerate discussions with my own clinical teams about treatment options, for cancer and for other medical conditions. One place you can start is on Medscape, the clinician side of WebMD. You don’t have to be a clinician to set up a profile on their site, and they have a meaty oncology section. Other great resources include JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Assn.) Oncology and ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) Connection site, where you can read perspectives and new discoveries from across the oncology spectrum.
When you’re dealing with a cancer diagnosis, you want to have all your options on the table, and make the most informed decisions possible. Opening up a dialogue with your oncology team about clinical trials early in the treatment process will give you the information you need for those “most informed decisions.”
Make Shared Decision Making Real
Another reason to open those discussions early is to gauge your oncologist’s response to shared decision making, and participatory medicine. If your oncologist doesn’t welcome self-advocacy on your part, it’s better to know early in the treatment process so you can shift to another, more participatory practice. Here is additional information about shared decision making.
You are the focus of your cancer treatment team’s work. Lead the discussions, share your perspective, participate fully in your treatment planning. Opening the discussing of clinical trials is a great way to get your team on your page about treatment and outcome preferences, and to unlock the power of precision medicine.
Get started and a Cure Forward Clinical Trial Navigator will help you access active clinical trial options.
|Casey Quinlan covered her share of medical stories as a TV news field producer, then got a breast cancer diagnosis five days before Christmas in 2007. She used her research, communication, and comedy skills to navigate treatment, and wrote “Cancer for Christmas: Making the Most of a Daunting Gift” about managing medical care, and the importance of health literate self-advocacy.Her speaking calendar for 2016 includes Academy Health’s National Health Policy Conference, the 7th Patient Engagement, Education and Adherence Summit, the ePharma Summit, the Genetic Alliance’s Building Trustworthiness in PCORnet meeting, and Health Datapalooza.|