What happens when treaments end



My mum was diagnose with HER+ BC earlier this summer. She has 2 more chemo left before surgery and then a year’s worth Herceptin. She has been coping so well with all the side effects and has remained really positive - never complained even when she’s in pain. I have so much admiration for the way she has been coping since the diagnose and treatments. I know she has her off days when she does feel quite down but I think that is to be expected.


Anyway my concern is what happens after mum’s treatments finishes in a years time. I know she will have Herceptin for a year but once thats finished what will stop the cancer from coming back. This has been playing on my mind a lot recently. I was in utter despair when mum was diagnosed and found it really hard to accept it, but since she started treatment I felt a bit better as something is being done to try to get rid of this horrible disease from her body.


Why is that ER+ and PR+ BC are treated with hormone therapy for 5-10 years but HER+ BC only has Herceptin for a year? I am not saying I want mum to be getting treatment for years and years because I will be so glad when she’s done with all the drugs so she can get on with living her life, but I guess once the safety blanket of chemo and Herceptin are taken away, the unknown is so so scary.


Thank you for listening to me rambling on. I am a natural worrier and I am so so scared.

Hi Kat,


It is quite natural that you should have these worries. I am ER+ and PR+, so will have the tablets as long as required. But it didn’t stop me from feeling quite lost after my chemo stopped. We feel as though anything being infused into our blood stream is keeping us safe, and other treatment is not good enough. But that isn’t true. Years before Herceptin was introduced, anyone with a HER2 diagnosis only had chemo to fall back on. Just the same as anyone with a triple negative DX has now. But the way the drug is used, means it should give the same protection as our hormone tablets do to us. The Anastrazole tablets that I’m currently taking are only 2mg. So they gradually build up over the years. I shall move onto Tamoxifen soon, which are 20mg. The same will apply. I don’t know what the strength of Herceptin is when it’s infused, but I’m sure the end result will be the same. Plus, after the Herceptin is finished, your mum will be handed back to the breast care team and will have annual mammograms to keep check on her breast health for the next five years.


Yes, the unknown is scary. I’m sure there will soon be a HER2 lady come along and give their opinion. But thousands of BC survivors who only had one year of Herceptin after chemo are living out their lives happily and successfully.


Wishing you and your mum a healthy and happy future. 


poemsgalore xxx

The reason they only give HER+ one year of Herceptin is that they have good data from a trial that two years of Herceptin gives the same protection from cancer recurrence as one year (but there are more adverse effects with 2 years)



So Herceptin for a year (and chemo for 4-6 months) give protection in future years against cancer recurrence and these treatment durations are optimum (based on current knowlege).


The optimum duration for treatment with hormone tablets (for people who are hormone positive) is least 5 years.  It used to be 5 years but think there is some evidence that longer might be better.



Hi Kat77


I was a HER2+ lady and had a year of Herceptin.  I was diagnosed in 2007.  I remember all of these worries going round in my head and wanted to make sure that I got my “quota” of Herceptin to ensure best possible scenario.  Once treatment is finished, it is hard because there is an on-going worry.  I know that Herceptin does miracles for people but it doesn’t work in the same way for hormonal breast cancer.  


People whose breast cancer is HER2+ have a large amount of a protein called HER2Neu or erbB2. This protein is a growth factor receptor. It transmits signals from outside the cell to the inside, which make the cells grow. The Herceptin antibody attaches itself to this protein receptor and blocks it. So it can no longer tell the cancer cells to grow. Herceptin also increases the effect of chemotherapy drugs on breast cancer cells.  It doesn’t work in the same way as hormonal drugs for hormonal breast cancer hence the way it is used is completely different.  There have been trials which suggest that people don’t even need a year of Herceptin and that six months is enough.


Anyway, hope this helps a bit and wishing you and your mum all the very best.


Ruby xx