When searching the Internet, you will find many web sites that provide excellent, unbiased information about prostate cancer. Unfortunately, there are just as many web sites that do not.
Sometimes information presented on a web site is factual, but you might not get the whole story. As you search a web site, ask yourself if the information being presented is unbiased, or is the web site trying to influence you to choose a particular treatment?
Clinical trials offer a wealth of information about the success of different treatments for prostate cancer, including information about side effects.
While they are often funded by pharmaceutical companies, clinical trials must follow stringent guidelines. Doctors base many of their treatment decisions on the results of these trials.
A good place to search for clinical trials is Pub Med. PubMed is made available through the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and uses a text-based search and retrieval system.
Using Pub Med
If you type “prostate cancer + treatment options” or “prostate cancer + survival” in the search engine, multiple articles will come up. When you click on one, it usually takes you to an abstract, which is a summary of the article.
After reading the abstract you can order the full article from the publisher (if a link is available), or try to find it at a medical library. Check with local medical schools to find one near you. Sometimes you can even download the article for free.
Often the abstract provides what you want to know. A medical dictionary can be helpful for terms that you do not understand.
What phase is the clinical trial?
- Phase I clinical research are small studies, usually conducted before a drug or treatment is approved by FDA, to determine if a treatment is safe to use.
- A Phase II study is the first controlled clinical trial of a treatment with the target population (typically about 100 people) to determine how well the treatment works.
- Phase III is an extensive, expanded, controlled clinical trial that is often conducted at multiple medical centers. It may involve hundreds to several thousands of people. These studies often compare one treatment to another.
How many subjects were in the trial?
A trial of 1,000 men with prostate cancer or more is significant. A trial of less than 100 men should not be interpreted to represent the entire population (in this case, all men with prostate cancer).
What are the study methods?
A double-blind study means that neither the investigators (the healthcare professionals running the study) or the patient knows the identity of the drug/treatment that was used.
In a single-blind study, only the patients don’t know the drug/treatment. The advantage of a double-blind study is that it eliminates the effects of patient and investigator expectations about the outcome of the study.
What is the grade of the cancer?
If the men all had low Gleason scores (6 or less) the results should be viewed differently than if they had higher Gleason scores (7 or higher).
What is the P value?
The P value helps to assess the level of significance of the data. In other words, was it just luck that every man did well in the study?
A P value of less than .05 (P < .05) tells you that the probability that the results occurred by chance is less than .05 or less than 5 in 100.