ANNEMARIE CICCARELLA, 56, BUILT HER CAREER AROUND NUMBERS. As the chief financial officer for the commercial construction firm she owned with her husband in New York City, she had to be detail-oriented and organized.

So in 2009, when she found herself mentally overwhelmed in a job she had done for 10 years, Ciccarella suspected that the chemotherapy she had completed two years earlier to treat her early stage breast cancer had resulted in “chemobrain”—cognitive problems that may result from cancer or its treatments.

Taking Part in Studies

A wide array of studies need people with, and without, cancer:

Searching for information about the condition, she learned about a study at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City exploring whether a software program for stroke patients with memory problems might also help breast cancer survivors who had undergone chemo—and she decided to participate.

Her experience piqued her interest in cancer research. She soon found the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation’s Army of Women program, which alerts its members to breast cancer studies in need of both volunteers who have had cancer and those never diagnosed. Ciccarella quickly signed up.

Launched in 2008, and funded by the Avon Foundation, the Army of Women now has more than 370,000 members. (Men can join as well.) To date, the online volunteer network has helped researchers fill 60 studies “looking into the cause and prevention of breast cancer, as well as quality-of-life issues for breast cancer survivors,” says Naz Sykes, the executive director of the Santa Monica, Calif.–based foundation.

Ciccarella, a resident of Glen Head, N.Y., volunteered for two web-based studies she had learned about through the Army of Women. She is also currently enrolled in a 10-year study that she heard about through Memorial Sloan-Kettering. It is looking at the quality of life of women after they receive silicone gel implants during breast reconstruction.

“Being part of the Army of Women, and participating when I can” in cancer research, says Ciccarella, “makes me feel like I’m doing my part to make a difference.”

Before Signing Up, Ask These Questions

  • What is the main purpose of this study?
  • How long is the study going to last, and what will I be asked to do?
  • What is already known about the treatment being studied, and have any study results been published?
  • Will my insurance cover the costs of the study?

For a full list of questions, consult the Center for Information & Study on Clinical Research Participation website.