Tuesday 20 December 2016

Last Herceptin Injection

On 25th November I had my last Herceptin injection. This means I'm officially at the end of active treatment. Wahooooo!! I have been on herceptin for 12 months and had the injection every three weeks so this really has been a long time coming. A year ago I thought this day would never come! 

I've mentioned herceptin a few times on my blog but I'll give you a quick description of what it's all about for those of you who can't remember. 

Herceptin is a brand name for the medicine known as Traustazumb. I have herceptin injections because my breast cancer is HER2 positive. HER2 stands for Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2. HER2 makes cancer cells grow and divide very fast. This is why oncologists refer to my HER2+ breast cancer as a very fast growing and aggressive type of breast cancer. About 15-20% of breast cancer patients have HER2+ breast cancer. 

Herceptin is a wonderful drug that came about in 1998 and was first used for patients with terminal breast cancer. It started to be used for all HER2+ breast cancers by 2005. It works by attaching to the HER2 cells and immobilising them meaning they stop dividing and multiplying. 

If I had this type of breast cancer ten years ago I'm afraid my prognosis would not be very good. HER2+ breast cancers have a very high reoccurrence  and mortality rate. Herceptin is a long but very important aspect to my treatment and I am very grateful to be able to have it.

I  started my herceptin injections half way through chemo whilst I was having docetaxel chemotherapy. I did this because research indicates that this is the most effective way to have it by starting it alongside docetaxel. For my first injection I had to wait in the chemotherapy ward for six hours to check I didn't have an allergic reaction to it. Once I had finished my chemotherapy I was lucky enough to have Healthcare at Home administer it at my house every three weeks. Since Herceptin is a specialised chemotherapy drug only specially trained doctors are able to administer it meaning a lot of people have to continue going to the chemotherapy ward every three weeks for a year to have their Herceptin injection. I'm very grateful I was able to have injection 4-18 at my own home via the lovely nurses at Healthcare at home. 

The injection is a subcutaneous injection that goes in to my thigh. They alternate thighs each time. HAH nurses administer the injection and stay with me for two hours. As the nurses are nice we normally just have a nice chin wag and a brew whilst watching This Morning and Loose Women. As you can imagine this is much better than going back to the chemotherapy ward to have my injection every three weeks. 

The injection takes about 5 minutes to administer. One of my nurses once timed it on my iPhone and it actually took 4 minutes and 56 seconds from insertion until it was finished. It stings a lot when it first goes in and feels very similar to a bee sting for about a minute and then the stinging eases off and it just feels like a normal injection for the remainder of the time. 

Im glad my coffee table doesn't have to turn in to a make shift hospital every three weeks from now on. 

There are many side effects to Herceptin - but not everyone gets them all. Mine were quite similar to my chemotherapy side effects although not as extreme. Mine were mostly flu-like symptoms. Such as achy joints and tiredness. The problem is these are also similar side effect for Zoladex and after effects of chemotherapy so it's hard to determine whether it's the Herceptin or not.

The most serious side effect of Herceptin is heart failure. This is why for the last year every three months I've had to have a MUGA scan, which is a kind of heart scan. The MUGA scan makes sure my heart is still strong and working well enough for me to continue with my herceptin treatment. 

I've blogged about MUGA scans before so I won't bore you with any more science chat. I will say I'm glad I don't have to have them anymore. My last heart scan showed my heart was very strong so thankfully it doesn't look like the Herceptin has caused to much damage. 

God I feel like this was a really boring blog post with waaay to much medical chat! Didn't I also start it with ‘I'll just give you a quick description’?? Sorry guys! Ah well the main thing is my Herceptin treatment is now complete and it's another big chunk of my treatment that's thankfully over and done with. 

Merry Christmas everyone!...I'm off to eat ALL the pate and cheese!! xx


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