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What are the Side Effects of Herceptin?

Meshell Powell
Meshell Powell

Herceptin is an injectible medication that is commonly used to treat breast cancer. Side effects of herceptin may include nausea, vomiting, or headaches. More severe side effects of herceptin may involve severe heart or lung damage, occasionally leading to death. For this reason, any abnormal symptoms should be reported to a doctor right away for further evaluation. Early diagnosis of organ damage can often prevent death or severe complications.

Flu-like symptoms are among the most common side effects of herceptin. These symptoms may include gastrointestinal disturbances such as nausea, vomiting, or intestinal cramping and pain. Dizziness, fever, and fatigue may also be present. Eating several small meals per day or avoiding eating just before treatment may help to alleviate or prevent some of these symptoms. In some cases, the dosage of the medication can be adjusted if these symptoms become particularly bothersome.


Cardiac problems may develop as side effects of herceptin. Some symptoms to look for include shortness of breath, changes in blood pressure, or heart palpitations. These symptoms should be reported to a doctor right away, as severe heart damage may occur as a result of taking this medication, potentially leading to the death of the patient. If these heart-related problems are diagnosed early enough, the medication can be changed, and permanent damage to the heart may be avoided. If these symptoms are not dealt with in a timely fashion, irreversible heart damage becomes a possibility.

Moderate to severe damage to the lungs has been reported as one of the potential side effects of herceptin usage. A condition called pulmonary toxicity may develop, presenting with symptoms such as low blood pressure, fluid buildup around the lungs, or swelling of the lung tissue. Symptoms similar to a severe allergic reaction may sometimes occur shortly after administration of this medication. These symptoms may include difficulty breathing, itching, and hives.

Severe heart and lung problems are not common side effects of herceptin, although they are a definite possibility. For this reason, many doctors will order a variety of tests before prescribing this medication in order to make sure that the heart and lungs are healthy. Some of these tests may be repeated from time to time so that any complications can be diagnosed before severe organ damage occurs. Any questions or concerns about potential side effects of herceptin should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

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