Oncologists make decisions regarding the best treatment for your cancer based on scientific evidence. Still, you may wonder how these determinations about which drugs are best to treat your individual cancer were made. Does the oncologist go back to a drug used previously? One with a catchy name? What is the rationale for the decisions made about the best treatment for you?
It’s important to know that drug recommendations are not made because of relationships between physicians and drug companies. They are never made on a whim, based on the feeling of the physician that particular day. They are never made for any possible financial gain.
Cancer treatment regimens, drugs or combinations of drugs are carefully studied in trials. This scrutiny applies to all parts of the process — prospectively, looking ahead as a trial is being developed; and retrospectively, assessing the results of a completed trial. These studies arm scientists and doctors with information from large groups of patients, including: levels of effectiveness, proper dosages and frequencies, as well as duration of use and common side effects. These results are then used to educate physicians and nurses about what to expect when using the drugs — in the short-term and in the long-term.
A widely used resource for physicians who treat people with cancer is the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, www.nccn.org.
Surgeons, pathologists, oncologists and radiologists utilize the NCCN for all types of cancer, seeking information on recommended cancer work-up, treatment and examination. The NCCN website is inclusive, and provides information beyond that being sought by members of the medical community. Patients also have access to the same information that physicians use to guide treatment. This information is found under the patient resources tab at www.nccn.org.
Patients — and caregivers — can find a wealth of information, including:
- Guidelines broken down by type of cancer
- Clinical practice guidelines
- A dictionary of relevant terms
- Tips for living with, and living after, cancer
- Advocacy and support group guidance
A particularly great feature of the NCCN website — which is also available as a free app — is the section that includes suggested questions for your care team. Often, patients have difficulty figuring out what are the most important questions to ask about their care. This is OK. It can be hard to know what you don’t know! These questions help you to become more fully informed. The site is updated with the most current information very frequently. The material is presented in a way that is understandable and it is all provided free of charge.