Dealing with day-to-day life during clinical trials?


Question from JW: It seems to me that women with Stage IV cancer on clinical trials face a great deal of uncertainty regarding effectiveness of their treatment. Are there particular/specific ways of helping these women cope with day-to-day living on clinical trials?
Answers - Larry Norton, M.D. Uncertainty is part of life and if you have a serious disease, that uncertainty is heightened. Being on a clinical trial in many ways reduces that uncertainty since the schedule of testing for the status of the disease is determined by experts and adhered to carefully. Also, on a clinical trial, one has the comfort of knowing you're not alone; that many are being treated with the same treatment so knowledge of what happens to one patient can be shared with all. It is very important when one has a serious disease to do everything possible to do well with that disease, including establishing a relationship with a doctor or nurse with a great deal of trust. If one develops a trustful relationship and one is doing everything one can to do well, then you should turn your attention to living as full a life as possible. It is a mistake to become a professional patient. Your illness is only one part of your life; the other parts of your life also deserve your attention and respect. You make good decisions and you go on with your life. Enjoy the people that you love. And that's the best way to reduce fear.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. Dr. Norton taught me a long time ago that there's only one of each of you, and each person deserves to be hopeful and believe that you can do well. As a physician in practice for 20 years, and Dr. Norton has been in practice longer, we have both learned that the patients who may seem to have the worst prognosis can beat out the odds and show us that they too have a chance of beating the statistics and living well. There are patients I took care of 15 years ago who I was sure would never make it who are still writing me Christmas cards. And there are women who appeared to have an excellent outcome who, for whatever reason, didn't do as well as we may have predicted.
Larry Norton, M.D. This is an important point. Uncertainty often works in your favor. It can have a positive side as well as a negative side, and I have noticed over the many decades I've done this that expecting to do well often leads to doing well. Visualizing a happy future often leads to a happy future. The only way you can guarantee that you're going to do poorly is to stop fighting.

On Wednesday, October 17, 2007 our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer. Larry Norton, M.D. and moderator Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about managing day-to-day life with metastatic breast cancer.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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