Injecting the cancer medicine trastuzumab yourself
This guide gives you useful instructions and information about injecting the cancer medicine trastuzumab yourself. It covers:
- how the medicine works
- general safety tips for using trastuzumab
- collecting, storing and handling trastuzumab
- preparing and giving yourself trastuzumab injections
The aim of this guide is to help you give yourself the medicine at home. It is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or nurse.
Injecting trastuzumab yourself
A nurse has already shown you how to give yourself an injection under the skin (a subcutaneous injection). You and the nurse have agreed that:
- you can inject the medicine yourself
- you feel comfortable doing this
You have a phone appointment with a nurse on the day that you first need to inject trastuzumab. They check that you have successfully given yourself the injection.
If you have any questions not covered in this guide or are not sure how to inject trastuzumab, please contact your hospital team. They can support and help you.
Trastuzumab is officially approved (licensed) for use when a health professional gives you the medicine.
If you inject trastuzumab yourself, this is not an officially approved use of the medicine. It is called an off-label use of the medicine.
However, we believe that giving yourself the medicine at home is a safe and convenient way for you to have treatment. It will reduce the number of hospital visits that you need to make and save you time.
Please read the information that we give you about off-label use of the medicine. You can speak to your hospital team if you have any concerns.
About the medicine trastuzumab
Trastuzumab, which has the brand name Herceptin among others, is used to treat:
- early and advanced breast cancer
- advanced stomach cancer
- cancer of where the food pipe (oesophagus) joins the stomach
How the medicine works
Trastuzumab is a type of targeted therapy. This means that the medicine is used to find and attack cancer cells.
Some cancer cells have large amounts of a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). This substance encourages the cells to grow and survive. Trastuzumab attaches to the HER2 protein and:
- stops the cancer cells from dividing and growing
- encourages your body’s natural defence (immune) system to attack and kill the cancer cells
Side effects of trastuzumab
Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist explains the common side effects of trastuzumab treatment.
Contact us immediately if:
- your temperature is very high, or you feel hot, shivery or shaky
- you suddenly feel unwell, even if your temperature is normal
- you have a sore throat, cough or diarrhoea, or need to pee a lot
You can call our acute oncology service on 020 7188 3754 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
If you get side effects or have any concerns that are not addressed in this guide, please contact your hospital.
Tips for using trastuzumab safely
Here is a list of general tips for how to use trastuzumab safely.
- give yourself the trastuzumab injection within 3 to 5 minutes (slowly push down the plunger, over 3 to 5 minutes, until you have injected everything inside the syringe)
- take it in turns to inject into your outer left and right thigh
- choose a different area of skin on the thighs for each injection
- put your used syringe and needle in the yellow sharps bin with a purple lid each time that you inject and never leave them lying around
- give yourself the injection at about the same time each morning when you are due to have a dose
- contact the chemotherapy day unit if you are not sure how to inject or would like more information
- store your medicine appropriately in the fridge and out of the reach of children and pets
- do not put the syringe down anywhere or touch the needle with anything before injecting
- do not inject into bruised, scarred or damaged skin
- do not rub the skin after you have injected
- do not share or let anyone else use your syringes or medicines
- do not throw away any equipment or medicines in your general household waste
- do not overfill the sharps bin. The lid must be closed when the bin is full. You or your carer must return the bin to the hospital at your next visit, or contact your local council to arrange collection