Allowed to take a break from Herceptin?


Question from HelenT: Can I take a break from Herceptin this summer? Is there any clarity since ASCO on what is the optimal frequency and total number of weeks someone with HER2-positive, node-positive early breast cancer should be given Herceptin? I have just completed a treatment of AC and Taxol chemo as well as radiotherapy.
Answers - Maria Theodoulou, M.D. Based on the Herceptin data presented at ASCO this year, women diagnosed with HER2-positive are being offered Herceptin as part of their adjuvant therapy as long as their underlying cardiac function is normal. The results presented showed a clear and impressive reduction of disease recurrence in women who have received Herceptin that have HER2-positive disease.

Some women completed their chemotherapy without Herceptin because they were randomized to a non-Herceptin arm in the clinical trial, or were not part of a clinical trial from the beginning of their treatment. But now, Herceptin is being offered to women diagnosed with HER2-positive disease as long as it is within 6 months of completing their last chemotherapy cycle. The Herceptin is given in these circumstances, as the one just described, once every three weeks. This allows for a nice block of time to be away from your treating physician and clinic.

Because Herceptin is accepted worldwide now, as part of the early treatment in the adjuvant setting for HER2+ breast cancer, it is fairly easy to find. Even on vacation, you can probably find a physician who will help and cooperate with your care in order to avoid missing a dose for more than 6 weeks. If you plan to leave your home town, where you normally receive care, and travel during the summer months for longer than 4 to 6 weeks, your doctor can help coordinate with a doctor in the other area, in most cases.

Whether you are on Herceptin or not, when you travel, always, ALWAYS carry your physician's phone number and contact numbers with you. When traveling with prescriptions, such as prophylactic antibiotics in case you are at risk for lymphedema, please fill those prescriptions before you leave. Don't just take the written prescription with you.

The world has become a very small place with electronic mail and cell phones, and you can be tied directly to your physician even when you travel. Have that information in your wallet; carry your filled prescription bottles with you. When you're traveling for longer than 2 or 3 weeks, take an extra lymphedema sleeve with you. Treat yourself with the care, consideration, and love that you would your baby when you pack all those extra supplies to take care of him or her wherever you go.

On Wednesday, June 1, 2005, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Summertime Issues: Treatment and Personal CareMaria Theodoulou, M.D., Tamara Shulman, Ph.D., and moderator Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about the various summertime issues that relate to breast cancer treatment and personal care.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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