Trastuzumab (Generic Name)

Other Names: Herceptin, anti-HER2 monoclonal antibody

About this drug

Trastuzumab is a special type of antibody used to treat cancer. It is given intravenously (IV).

Possible side effects

  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and/or chills. During the first dose, you may develop fever and/or chills. This is a temporary reaction to the drug. Your doctor may give you medications to help lessen these side effects.
  • Allergic reactions. Allergic reactions to this drug may occur in some patients. Signs of allergic reaction are shortness of breath, rash or itching, dizziness or lightheadedness, or palpitations (feeling your heart beat rapidly).
  • Pain. Some patients experience abdominal pain, back pain, pain at the injection site, and/or pain at the site of the tumor. It is very important to tell your doctor or nurse about your pain.
  • Effects on the heart. This drug can weaken the heart and decrease heart function. Your heart function will be checked as needed. You may have difficulty catching your breath, especially during activities. You may also have difficulty breathing while lying flat and experience swelling in your ankles.
  • This drug may have harmful effects on an unborn child. Effective methods of birth control should be used during your cancer treatment. Genetic counseling is available for you to discuss the effect of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. A genetic counselor can review the potential risks of problems in the fetus if an exposure to this medication during pregnancy has occurred.

Treating side effects

  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medication to help prevent or lessen nausea and vomiting.
  • Do not put anything on your rash, unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry.
  • Use effective methods of birth control during your cancer treatment.

Food and drug interactions

There are no known interactions of trastuzumab with any food. This drug may interact with other medications. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all of the medications that you are currently taking.

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor or nurse immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Rash or itching, dizziness or lightheadedness, or palpitations (feeling your heart beat rapidly)
    while you are receiving the drug
  • Redness, pain, warmth, or swelling at the IV site while you are receiving this drug
  • Difficulty catching your breath
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing when lying flat
  • Increased cough
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat or palpitations
  • Ankle swelling
  • Temperature of 100.5 F (38 C) or higher
  • Chills
  • Vomiting more than three times in one day
  • Uncontrolled nausea that prevents you from eating or drinking


Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea of five to six stools in one day or diarrhea with weakness or lightheadedness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting that is not helped by prescribed medication
  • Pain that is not helped by prescribed medication
  • Headache that is not helped by prescribed medication
  • Abdominal pain
  • Persistent loss of appetite or rapid weight loss (5 pounds in one week)
  • Rash that is bothersome

Additional warning

There is a possibility of a severe delayed reaction, which can occur hours to days after this drug is given. This reaction most commonly occurs after the first dose, but can potentially occur after any dose. At the first sign of breathing difficulties or pain in your chest, seek emergency care immediately.

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