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Heather's Story about Clinical trial for
recurrent breast cancer

Heather is a full-time waitress who has been cancer-free since her first breast cancer experience 6 years ago. She has no insurance and is not eligible for Medicaid nor for IHS. She and her lesbian partner live in a rural area about 60 miles from the Cancer Center. She talked with her partner about her recurrent cancer diagnosis. She is worried about treatment that may affect her status as a sober alcoholic. Heather calls the Cancer Information Service to get their help.

Question: Do you think most cancer treatments would hurt her sobriety?

Answer: Cancer treatment drugs do not cause a "high" effect and there is no reason for the treatment drugs to have any effect on her sobriety.

The woman from the Cancer Information Service tells Heather about a study for women with recurrent breast cancer. It is a clinical trial that uses a chemo drug, "Anastrozole". The Control group on the trial uses "Anastrozole" and the Experimental group uses both the "Anastrozole" and a new drug, "Fluvestrant". Heather"s recurrent disease is in her bones, but not her spinal column. The Cancer Information Service woman thinks that Heather may still be eligible to take part in the study, but she needs to call soon.

Her partner is very supportive and has agreed to take off work to drive Heather in for the treatments. Heather calls up the Cancer Center to talk with them about taking part in the study. The Cancer Center schedules an appointment for both women to come in to discuss taking part in the study. The Cancer Center recruiter is concerned because Heather has no insurance and also is not eligible for IHS Contracted Health Services. The Cancer Center has never had a Native Americans take part in a cancer clinical trial, and they decide to cover all of her costs (for the medications, parking fee while at the Cancer Center and so on).

Question: Heather has some questions she wants to ask the providers. Which of these questions would you also want to ask if you were Heather?

  • How do I know I am really getting medications and not just being experimented on?
  • Will the drugs make me sick?
  • What can I do to not get nauseous / or have an upset stomach?
  • What types of foods should I eat during the treatment?
  • What types of drinks and how many should I drink while I am taking the treatment?
  • Will my hair fall out?
  • How will the drugs make me feel (e.g., tired, depressed, sick)?
  • Can my partner stay in the room with me while I am being treated or will she be at risk in any way?
  • How successful has this treatment been for other women with cancer that has spread to their bone and skin?
  • After the first week of treatment is over, when do I need to come back?
  • Is there any special way I need to prepare for my next appointments?
  • How often will I need to return to the Cancer Center?
  • About how long is each appointment when I have to return?
  • If more drugs are prescribed by the provider, how may I get them for no cost?
  • Am I likely to survive this?
  • How soon before I start to feel better?
  • How soon before I quit worrying about dying from this cancer?
  • Should I tell my children anything (they do not approve of her lesbian relationship)?

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