Cancer, unfortunately, affects many of us in the Latino community.
Have you or a family member been diagnosed with cancer? Do you want to explore different treatment options, or do you want to join the search for new ways to prevent cancer?
If so, a cancer clinical trial may be a good choice for you.
But Latinos—among many others—don’t know much about clinical trials, surveys show.
Clinical trials are research studies in which people help doctors find new prevention, screening, and treatment options. New treatments that look promising, and have already been tested extensively in the laboratory, are then tested with patients who volunteer to participate.
How do clinical trials work?
During trials, researchers can find out the benefits of new treatments or preventive strategies by comparing two groups: a group who receives the new treatment (treatment group) and a group who receives the best available standard treatment (comparison or control group).
Clinical trial participants are assigned by chance to either the treatment or comparison group.
No matter what group, a person will receive treatment—either the best standard treatment or the new treatment, that researchers believe is as good as or better than the standard.
When someone participates in a trial, they are helping search for the best ways to prevent and treat the same cancers that may affect them, their friends, families, and others. Most importantly, clinical trials lead to medical discoveries that could enhance treatment and improve chances of recovery for you or a loved one.
For Latinos, it’s especially important we participate in research so that doctors can learn more about the types of cancer that affect our community and what treatments are most effective.
My colleagues and I developed a bilingual magazine, ¡Buena Vida! A Guide to Family Cancer Research, to inform Latinos on all aspects of participating in cancer clinical trials.
Aurora T. Guajardo tells in the magazine about how she never had cancer but took part in a cancer study because she felt it might benefit her daughter and granddaughters.
“I used to think that people in medical studies were just ‘guinea pigs.’ But I found out it wasn’t like that,” Guajardo said. “I felt like what I was doing was safe—and it could make a difference in someone’s life someday.”
Of course, participating in a clinical trial can have both risks and benefits; I would ask those interested to be sure to discuss any questions or concerns with their health care provider, as well as how the trial will impact your everyday routine and what insurance may or may not cover. Sometimes costs are paid by trial sponsors, and sometimes patients can make arrangements with trial staff to cover what costs insurance doesn’t.
The more someone knows, the better they can make decisions with their family and provider about what course of action is right for them.
Visit the National Cancer Institute Web site, cancer.gov/espanol, to learn more about clinical trials, or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH, directs the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, which researches Latino health issues and founded the SaludToday Latino health blog, Twitter and Facebook. Dr. Ramirez, an internationally recognized cancer health disparities researcher, has spent 30 years directing research on human and organizational communication to reduce chronic disease and cancer health disparities affecting Latinos, including cancer risk factors, clinical trial recruitment, tobacco prevention, obesity prevention, healthy lifestyles, and more. She also trains/mentors Latinos in behavioral sciences and is on the board of directors for LIVESTRONG, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and others. She was elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies in 2007.