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Pregnancy & ChildbirthWellness & PreventionTreatment & Care

Breast Cancer Treatment: Biological Therapy

Biological therapy helps the immune system, the body’s natural defense against disease, fight cancer.

Some women with breast cancer that has spread receive a biological therapy called Herceptin, a drug that binds to cancer cells. Herceptin 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 by vein either alone or with chemotherapy.

Side Effects

The first time a woman receives Herceptin, 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, leading to possible heart failure. It can also affect the lungs, which may cause serious breathing problems. Before you receive Herceptin, your doctor will check your heart and lungs, and during treatment, your doctor will watch for signs of lung problems.