Karin Ashman, Breast Cancer clinical trial participant, St. John of God - Bunbury

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At the age of 57 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer (60mm Grade 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma with 2/26 axillary nodes involved – ER++ and HER-2 positive) and underwent a mastectomy. 

My treatment was to follow the path of thousands of women around Australia – Chemotherapy, Herceptin, Radiotherapy and Hormonal Therapy.  At the time, I felt like Alice in Wonderland; I had fallen down the rabbit hole, but not into a magical world, but onto a personal journey of pain and, at on occasions, mental despair.  Always in the back of my mind was the question “Will it come back – wilI I make it”.

It was a very emotional time with huge highs and extreme lows.  I met the most fantastic doctors/nurses/healthcare workers and amazing cancer patients all battling, and hoping, to survive.  Our support system through the WA State Health Care System and Cancer Council was wonderful.

My Oncologist wondered whether I would like to participate in a 10 Year Clinical Trial called ALTTO (a study comparing Trastuzumab and Lapatinib (a new drug)).  To me it was an easy answer – yes, of course.  I would do anything to help both myself and other people in a similar condition.  The selection as to the type of treatment we would receive was quite random and I found myself in the control group.  The trial is still ongoing.

We all know how terrible cancer is and I believe we should do our utmost to help find a cure.  The clinical trials will often improve the diagnosis, treatment and management of people with cancer and if a trial proves that a test or treatment is better than existing options, it may become the new standard care for patients in the future.

So, in my opinion, if you are asked to join a clinical trial don’t hesitate to accept as your trial might make a huge difference and might even be someone’s life saver.