(BPT) - Jack Whelan never missed his daily power walk. But at 58, he began to lose pace and grew concerned. Were his headaches and occasional nosebleeds normal signs of age, or were they something else?
In 2006, after discussing his symptoms with his doctor, Whelan was diagnosed with a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer. After reviewing treatment options, Whelan made the decision to explore participating in a clinical trial.
Taking part in clinical trials helps doctors and scientists better understand how cancer cells respond to different treatments, what characteristics to look for to diagnose cancer sooner and how certain cancers might be prevented. Clinical trials can also offer the chance for patients to receive investigational treatments that might offer some improvement over standard treatment.
Over the past nine years, Whelan has participated in seven clinical trials to treat his disease, and encourages other people with cancer to take an active role in exploring treatment options, including clinical trials.
'I warn other people with cancer against taking a 'car-wash' approach, or passively accepting whatever is advised,' Whelan says. 'I understand that not every person will make the same decision to participate in multiple trials, but it's important to get a second opinion, be proactive about your care and explore all your options.'
According to research from the Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation, many people who are aware of cancer clinical trials are hesitant to participate due to common misconceptions. For example, some fear they won't receive quality care in a trial setting. Others are hesitant to join a trial because they think they might be in a study group that receives no treatment at all. Further, many people lack information about clinical trials available for their specific type of cancer. In fact, in one survey of people with cancer published in the Journal of Community and Supportive Oncology, only 16 percent were aware of trials relevant to their disease, and 65 percent noted this lack of awareness as the chief barrier to their participation in a study. Low awareness and participation is a major reason why less than half of all clinical trials achieve minimal enrollment, delaying important new studies to test potential new medicines and treatment approaches.
Whelan was aware of clinical trials and engaged his doctor in a discussion about multiple treatment approaches. Today, he is focusing on spending time with his wife and six grandchildren.
'Some people think that clinical trials are a last resort, but this does not have to be the case,' Whelan says. 'Cancer is a nasty, nasty thing to have, but I just have this confidence that science is going to help me get through this.'
For more information about cancer clinical trials, including information on some of the common misconceptions and ways to discuss cancer clinical trials with your doctors and loved ones, visit ACT (About Clinical Trials) at www.LearnAboutClinicalTrials.org. There you will find helpful videos and perspectives from experts from the medical community, more stories from people like Whelan, who have participated in clinical trials. ACT was created by Genentech and the American Cancer Society to help people learn more about clinical trials and access informative resources to help them make educated decisions about their treatment. ACT is available to everyone and requires no enrollment or registration.
Clinical trials: Common concerns vs. truths
* Will I be an experiment?Cancer clinical trials are developed with the highest medical and ethical standards, and participants are consistently treated with care and respect.
* Will I receive a placebo? Cancer clinical trials rarely use a placebo alone if an effective treatment is available.
* Is this my last resort? Trials can study everything from prevention to early- and late-stage treatment, and may be an option at any point after your diagnosis.
* Will I receive quality care? Many procedures are in place to help you receive quality care throughout your experience.