The immune system is the body's natural defense against disease and biological therapy helps the immune system fight cancer..
Herceptin (trastuzumab), a monoclonal antibody that binds to cancer cells,
is given to women whose lab tests show that a breast tumor has too much of a specific protein known as HER2. By blocking HER2, it can slow or stop the growth of the cancer cells.
Herceptin is given intravenously either alone or with chemotherapy.
The most common side effects are fever and chills. Some women also have pain, weakness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, difficulty breathing, or rashes. Side effects usually become milder after the first treatment.
Herceptin also may cause heart damage. This may lead to heart failure. Herceptin can also affect the lungs, causing breathing problems that require immediate medical attention, which is why you will be carefully checked out before and monitored closely during treatment.
Treatment choices by stage
Your treatment options depend on the stage of your disease and these factors:
- The size of the tumor in relation to the size of your breast
- The results of lab tests (such as whether the breast cancer cells need hormones to grow)
- Whether you have gone through menopause
- Your general health
Below are brief descriptions of common treatments for each stage. Other treatments may be appropriate for some women. Clinical trials can be an option at all stages of breast cancer so ask your doctor if any of these might be right for you.
Stage 0 breast cancer refers to lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Most women with LCIS do not have treatment. Instead, the doctor may suggest regular checkups to watch for signs of breast cancer. Some women take tamoxifen to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. Others may take part in studies of promising new preventive treatments.
Having LCIS in one breast increases the risk of cancer for both breasts. A very small number of women with LCIS try to prevent cancer with surgery to remove both breasts. This is a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy. The surgeon usually does not remove the underarm lymph nodes.
Most women with DCIS have breast-sparing surgery followed by radiation therapy although some choose to have a total mastectomy. Underarm lymph nodes are not usually removed. Women with DCIS may receive tamoxifen to reduce the risk of developing invasive breast cancer.