What Trastuzumab is and what it is used for?
- Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody which targets the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) on cells. HER2 is found in large amounts on the surface of some cancer cells, resulting in tumors growing more quickly. By attaching to the HER2, trastuzumab blocks HER2 from receiving growth signals, preventing further cancer growth and slowing cancer progression.
- Trastuzumab can be used alone or in combination with other medicines to treat patients with HER2 positive breast cancer and HER2 positive stomach cancer.
How is Trastuzumab given?
- It is given as an infusion into a vein over 90 minutes. The time of the infusion may be shortened to 30 minutes depending on how well you tolerate this drug after the first infusion.
What should I know while receiving Trastuzumab?
- An infusion reaction may happen during or shortly after the infusion, causing rash, dizziness, fever and chills, headache, breathing difficulties, and sick feeling in stomach. Tell your nurse right away if you feel unwell during an infusion.
- Do not receive this drug when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Effective contraception should be used during treatment and for at least 7 months after the treatment ends.
- Do not receive any kind of vaccination without doctor's approval.
- You will have regular blood tests and an electrocardiogram (ECG) to check that you have enough blood cells and have adequate organ functions to receive this drug. The timing of your treatment may be changed based on the test results or other side effects.
- The existing health problems may affect the use of trastuzumab. You should let your doctor know if you have any other medical problems, especially if you have heart, lung or breathing problems.
- There are many drugs may affect how trastuzumab works. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Common side effects
- Low white blood cell count
You may have a higher risk of getting infections. Try to stay away from crowds and wash hands often. Tell your doctor right away if you have repeated fevers, coughing, stuffy nose, a painful urination or wound that becomes red and swollen.
- Low red blood cell count
You may look pale and get tired more easily. Let your doctor know if you experience any difficulty breathing or dizziness when changing positions.
- Low platelet count
You may have a higher risk of bleeding. Let your doctor know if you find red or purple dots on the skin, bleeding from the nose or gums, or any bruising or bleeding that you cannot explain.
- Nausea or vomiting
Medicines may be given before the treatment to prevent it happening. Eating and drinking often in small amounts may reduce the discomfort.
- Weakness and fatigue
Try to pace yourself and rest as much as possible. Seek medical advice if fatigue does not go away when you rest and sleep.
Talk to your doctor and ask for advice. Drinking plenty of water and dietary changes can improve diarrhea.
- Skin rash
Talk to your doctor if this bothers you. Your doctor can give you medicines and advices that help you feel better.
- Difficulty sleeping
Talk to your doctor if this bothers you. Treatments usually include lifestyle changes, medications, or a combination of both.
- Flu like symptoms
Symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle pains and shivering may occur a few hours after treatment. These symptoms generally last for 2 to 3 days. Seek medical help if you do not get any better.
- Muscle or joint pain
Talk to the doctor if the pain is bothering you, they can give you medicine to help ease pain.
- Eye irritation
You might have dry eyes or infection in the eyes. Tell your doctor if this happens. Medicines can be given to relieve symptoms.
Rare but serious side effects
- Changes in heart function
Trastuzumab may affect heart function, including without symptoms, such as reduced heart function, and with symptoms, such as congestive heart failure. Contact a doctor right away if you notice that you have swelling in the legs, an abnormal heartbeat or pain or tightness in your chest.
- Lung or breathing problems
Tell your doctor if you develop difficulty breathing with wheezing and coughing or there is any existing breathing problems get worse.
- Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water every day can help make your recovery a smoother process.
- Alcohol and cigarettes may interfere with certain medicines or worsen side effects from chemotherapy treatment. It is wise to avoid alcohol and cigarette smoking during cancer treatment. If you have any problem about drinking alcohol and smoking, you should check with your doctor.