Herceptin can only be given intravenously, which means it is dripped into your body through a needle inserted into a vein. The first dose of Herceptin takes about 90 minutes. After that, it only takes about 30 minutes to get the other doses of Herceptin, which are usually given weekly in a doctor's office. Sometimes Herceptin can be given on a 3 week schedule -- you can talk to your doctor about your treatment schedule options.
If you have early stage breast cancer (stage I, II, or some stage III) that is HER2-positive, you may take Herceptin alone or together with a chemotherapy regimen. You will receive it for a specific amount of time, either during your course of chemotherapy or after your chemotherapy is complete.
If you have metastatic breast cancer that is HER2-positive, Herceptin can be taken indefinitely in order to keep the cancer under control. Herceptin has not been used long enough to know yet if you can stop taking it after you appear to be free of breast cancer for a certain period of time. So if you have metastatic disease and start taking Herceptin, you continue to take it, unless your doctor recommends you stop taking the medication because it is no longer working or you are unable to tolerate the side effects. The following chemotherapy medications can be given together with, before, or after Herceptin:
- Taxotere (chemical name: docetaxel)
- Taxol (chemical name: paclitaxel)
- 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)
- Xeloda (chemical name: capecitabine)
- Navelbine (chemical name: vinorelbine)
- Gemzar (chemical name: gemcitabine)
- Cytoxan (chemical name: cyclophosphamide)
Adriamycin (chemical name: doxorubicin) and Ellence (chemical name: epirubicin) are given before or after, but not together with Herceptin.
If your doctor prescribes Herceptin and you face any difficulties getting it covered by insurance, or you don't have insurance, you can get in touch with Access Solutions, sponsored by Genentech (the maker of Herceptin). Access Solutions can help investigate your insurance coverage benefits, appeal denied claims, and provide other assistance. You can also reach Access Solutions at 1-888-249-4918.