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Academic nicety – or sensible choice?

‘Twelve years ago I crossed the line between clinician and patient when, at the age of 33 years, I found out that I had breast cancer. At the time, I was doing a PhD about the problems of using randomised controlled trials (RCTs) to assess the effectiveness of treatments in my own discipline (orthodontics).

During my research, I had become aware of the benefits of taking part in clinical trials and, ironically, the uncertainties about treating younger women with early breast cancer. So at the time of my diagnosis I asked my consultant if there were any RCTs that I could take part in. His response shocked me. He said that I “must not let academic niceties get in the way of the best treatment for me”.

But what was the best treatment? I certainly didn’t know and also recognised that the profession was questioning what the optimum treatment was for early breast cancer in women younger than 50 years. So what was I to do?’

Harrison J. Testing times for clinical research. Lancet 2006;368:909-10.