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Targeted Therapies and Other Treatments

Below is information provided by the NHS to better understand breast cancer symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. 

Targeted therapies

Targeted therapies are medicines that change the way cells work and help to stop cancer from growing and spreading. Not all types of breast cancer can be treated with targeted therapies

The targeted therapy most commonly used to treat breast cancer is trastuzumab (also known by the brand name herceptin).

Some targeted therapies are given through a drip into a vein. Others come as tablets.

Side effects of targeted therapies include:

  • shivering and feeling unwell
  • diarrhoea
  • feeling and being sick
  • headache
  • cough
  • skin rash

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Risk of infection

Some of the medicines used to treat breast cancer can make you more vulnerable to infections. You should contact your care team immediately if you develop possible symptoms of infection, such as:

  • a high temperature
  • feeling shivery
  • you suddenly feel very unwell even though your temperature may be normal


If you have been through the menopause, you may be offered bisphosphonates (zoledronic acid or sodium clodronate).

Recent research has shown they may help to reduce the risk of breast cancer spreading to your bones and elsewhere in your body.

Bisphosphonates will probably be given to you at the same time as chemotherapy, either directly into a vein or as tablets.

Rarely, they can cause kidney problems and osteonecrosis of the jaw (when bone in the jaw dies).

Your doctor will explain the benefits and possible side effects before starting this treatment.

Psychological support

Dealing with cancer can be a huge challenge for you and your family and friends. It can cause emotional and practical difficulties.

Many women with breast cancer will have to cope with the removal of part or all of a breast, which can be very upsetting.

It often helps to talk about your feelings or other difficulties with a trained counsellor or therapist. You can ask for this kind of help at any stage of your illness.

Your hospital doctor, specialist nurse or GP can refer you to a counsellor.

If you're feeling depressed, talk to a GP. A course of antidepressantsmay help, or a GP can refer you to see a counsellor or psychotherapist.

It can also help to talk to someone who's been through the same thing as you. Many breast cancer charities have helplines and online forums and staff can also put you in touch with other women who have had cancer treatment.

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Clinical trials

A great deal of progress has been made in breast cancer treatment, and more women now live longer and have fewer side effects from treatment.

These advances were discovered in clinical trials, where new treatments and treatment combinations are compared with standard ones.

All cancer trials in the UK are carefully overseen to ensure they're worthwhile and conducted safely.

If you're invited to take part in a trial, you'll be given information about it and, if you want to take part, you'll be asked to sign a consent form.

You can refuse or withdraw from a clinical trial without it affecting your care.

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Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies are therapies that may help improve physical and emotional wellbeing.

They're given alongside conventional treatments and include:

Complementary therapies can help some women cope with their diagnosis and treatment, and provide a break from their regular treatment plan.

Your hospital or breast unit may be able to provide access to complementary therapies or suggest where you can get them.

It's important to speak to your breast cancer specialist nurse about any complementary therapy you wish to try to make sure it does not interfere with your conventional treatment.

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Will the NHS fund an unlicensed medicine?

It's possible for your doctor to prescribe a medicine outside the uses it's licensed for if they're willing to take personal responsibility for this 'off-licence' use of treatment.

Your local clinical commissioning group (CCG) may need to be involved, as it would have to decide whether to support your doctor's decision and pay for the medicine from NHS budgets.


For more information click through the the NHS website and if you notice any changes in your breasts or are worried at all please contact your GP.