Overcoming common misconceptions and fears about clinical trials

Medical Research
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When it comes to making decisions about our health, it's essential to have all the necessary information to make the ones that are right for us.

Part of that information is what clinical trials might be available for our condition. Clinical trials play a crucial role in advancing medicine and finding new treatment options, but misconceptions and fears often prevent people from participating in them. Let's take a moment to address them so that you can give clinical trials the consideration they deserve.

Common misconceptions about clinical trials

Many hesitate to participate in clinical trials because they believe they're exclusively for those with a terminal illness. That's far from the case. Trials span a broad spectrum of health conditions and are integral in developing treatments at various stages of illness.

"The process of a clinical trial is rigorously monitored, from initial design to the execution phase, with oversight by regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration," says Paul Gilman, MD, director of clinical research at Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, part of Main Line Health. "These measures are in place to minimize risks and protect participants, underscoring the commitment to safety above all."

Another misconception around clinical trials that contributes to hesitation is that participants are being exploited for research. However, clinical trials of today are rooted in ethical foundations that prioritize informed consent and participant rights.

Before joining a trial, individuals receive detailed information about what the study entails, including any potential risks and benefits, ensuring that their participation is fully informed. Throughout the study, participants' health and well-being are closely monitored, affirming the respect and value placed on everyone's contribution to medical science.

Patients are at the center of decision-making in clinical trials

Many worry whether they're receiving the proper quality of care when enrolled in a clinical trial.

"Patients are always empowered during a clinical trial," says Dr. Gilman. "There are regular updates provided to the patient, both about their progress as well as the trial itself. Patients have the opportunity to withdraw from the trial at any point. They're at the center of the process, not passive subjects."

Fear about medical side effects and complications is another significant barrier for many. However, the safety and well-being of participants are of paramount importance in any clinical trial. Every study is designed with a detailed protocol that includes measures for monitoring and managing side effects. The level of attention may exceed that of standard high quality medical care.

Medical professionals involved in the trial are dedicated to ensuring that any adverse reactions are managed promptly and effectively. The structured follow-up and oversight are designed to ensure that participants receive proper care throughout the trial process.

Benefits of participating in clinical trials

One of the most immediate benefits for trial participants is the opportunity to access innovative treatments and therapies. These advanced options, which are still in the testing phase and not yet available to the general public, can provide new hope and possibilities, especially for those who have not had success with existing treatments.

"Clinical trials are a chance to be at the forefront of medical science, receiving closely monitored care and potentially benefiting from the latest research developments," says Dr. Gilman.

They're also important to the advancement of medical science. Everyone who participates helps provide data that researchers use to advance treatment options and interventions. This information is vital for the development of better, more effective therapies that will benefit future generations.

Many clinical trials also offer treatments at no cost or provide participants with financial incentives, reducing the financial burden of health care.

The decision to participate in a clinical trial is deeply personal, but it can have profound impacts on science. The structured and supportive environment of a clinical trial, combined with the chance to access new treatments and contribute to medical research, presents a unique opportunity for those willing to consider participation.

Founded in 1927, Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR) was the nation's pioneering research center dedicated to cancer. It offers a wide variety of state-of-the-art clinical trials aimed at fighting not only cancer but cardiovascular disease and other conditions. Visit the Institute on the web to learn more.

Next steps:

Learn more about Paul Gilman, MD
Discover cancer research at Main Line Health 
Learn about Lankenau Institute for Medical Research

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