Health Literacy Month: How to Ask Your Doctor about Melanoma Clinical Trials

10 October 2018 | Allies & Partnerships, Treatment

If you’ve ever had a hard time understanding your doctor or following directions on a medicine bottle, you’re definitely not alone. Understanding health information is a challenge for at least 90 million Americans today. In honor of Health Literacy Month, we highlighted some of the ways patients can be feel empowered to ask questions and access better care.

People who struggle with health literacy have worse healthcare experiences. They have 6% more hospital visits and 4 times higher health care costs. They’re also less likely to participate in research studies. For conditions like melanoma, clinical trials can be life saving, so it’s important that patients understand their options. In a survey, patients who didn’t feel confident about the term “clinical trial” meant were also less likely to show interest in participating.

Many patients don't know about clinical trials because doctors don’t have a chance to talk about them. That’s why it’s important that patients search for trial opportunities and share them with their doctors on their own.

Researchers list melanoma trials on and through the National Cancer Institute.but the process can be confusing. Because is designed for researchers, it can be difficult for patients to use. To help, MRA has made it easier to find trials you may be qualified for by using our Clinical Trial Navigator.

If you find a trial you’re interested in, share it with your doctor. Then, feel free to ask your doctor any and all questions you have about the trial.

And if you feel uncomfortable asking your doctor to repeat things or answer questions, remember that you're not alone. Many people have a difficult time with health information. Clinical research in particular is complicated. Your doctor’s goal is to help you access the best care for you, so don’t be afraid to bring up trial opportunities and ask questions.

When you talk to your doctor about trial opportunities, consider asking these questions: 

  • Do I qualify for this trial? Why or why not?
  • How would this trial fit with my existing treatment?
  • Do you recommend I apply for this trial? Why or why not?

If you contact a study site or researcher and find that you do qualify for a trial, you’ll also have the chance to ask more questions. If anything is confusing, ask your question again, or ask a follow-up question. This is extra important if you’re going to sign an informed consent form and join the trial. This form confirms that you understand the goals and requirements of the trial. 

When talking with staff at the study site, consider asking these questions:

  • How long will the study last?
  • What is the goal of the study?
  • Will I be reimbursed for my expenses?
  • What can I expect at each study visit?
  • What did previous studies find out about the treatment? Have the results been published?
  • What are the potential risks and benefits of taking the study drug?

This Health Literacy Month, feel empowered to ask questions, and encourage others to do the same. There’s no shame in asking for better care. 


This article was written by Nancy Ryerson, Digital Marketing Manager at Antidote