Steroids for secondary breast cancer

Steroids are often used as part of treatment or to control symptoms, such as pain, in secondary breast cancer. They can also help you to feel better.

Steroids may be given:

  • with certain chemotherapy drugs to prevent an allergic reaction or to reduce sickness
  • to reduce swelling and control pain when there is a secondary cancer in the liver
  • to reduce pressure and relieve headache and sickness when there is a secondary cancer in the brain.

Steroids are generally only given for short periods of time and usually have few side effects.

Possible side effects include:

  • indigestion – take steroids with food as prescribed
  • having increased energy or feeling restless – let your doctor or nurse know if this is a problem
  • difficulty sleeping – try taking your steroids earlier in the day
  • increased appetite and weight gain – talk to your specialist nurse or a dietitian if you're concerned about this
  • higher level of sugar in the blood – you may have blood tests or your urine checked for this.

In some situations, steroids are given in high doses and gradually reduced after you've had treatment with radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Having higher doses or steroids for a longer period may cause more side effects, such as mood swings, fluid retention or being more likely to get an infection.

Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse if you're concerned about side effects you are having.