Goserelin for breast cancer

Goserelin is a hormonal therapy drug used to treat breast cancer. It can be given alone or with other types of treatment. It is best to read this information with our general information about hormonal therapies and the type of cancer you have.

Your doctor will talk to you about this treatment and its possible side effects before you agree (consent) to have treatment.

Goserelin is given as an injection. Your cancer doctor, nurse or pharmacist will tell you how often you will have it.

Like all cancer drugs, goserelin can cause side effects. Some of the side effects can be serious so it’s important to read the detailed information below.

Your healthcare team can give you advice on how to manage any side effects. Tell your doctor or nurse straight away if you feel unwell or have severe side effects, including any we do not mention here.

Rarely, side effects may be life-threatening. Your cancer doctor or nurse can explain the risk of these side effects to you.

If you need medical attention for any reason other than cancer, always tell the healthcare staff that you are having this treatment.

What is goserelin?

Goserelin is a hormonal drug used to treat breast cancer in women who have not yet had their menopause.

It can be given alone or with other types of treatment. It is best to read this information with our general information about hormonal therapies and breast cancer.

Your doctor will talk to you about this treatment and its possible side effects before you agree (consent) to have treatment.


How goserelin works

Hormones are chemicals that our bodies make. Hormones act as messengers and help control how cells and organs work. Hormonal therapies are drugs that change the way hormones are made or how they work in the body.

Many breast cancers rely on the hormone oestrogen to grow. This type of breast cancer is called oestrogen-receptor positive (ER positive) breast cancer. Goserelin stops the ovaries making oestrogen.

It is given to reduce the chance of the cancer coming back. You may have it over a few years. Doctors sometimes call this ovarian suppression.

Goserelin can also be used to help to control breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (advanced or metastatic cancer).

You usually have goserelin along with other hormonal therapy drugs.

Having goserelin

Goserelin is given as a very small pellet injected under the skin (subcutaneously). It is usually injected in the tummy area. The pellet releases the drug slowly as it dissolves under the skin. It is usually given every four weeks.

You usually have the first injection at your hospital clinic appointment. After this they can be given by your GP or practice nurse at the surgery. If you are not able to visit the surgery, a district nurse may give you the injection at home.

Injection site

You may have some pain, swelling, redness or a darker colour around the area that was injected. Let your doctor know if this happens. Painkillers may help.

You may have a local anaesthetic cream to numb the area before the injection.

Breast cancer and the menopause

Diane describes living with breast cancer and the menopausal symptoms that were caused by her chemotherapy.

About our cancer information videos

Breast cancer and the menopause

Diane describes living with breast cancer and the menopausal symptoms that were caused by her chemotherapy.

About our cancer information videos


About side effects

We explain the most common side effects of this treatment here. We also include some less common side effects.

You may get some of the side effects we mention, but you are unlikely to get all of them. 

If you are also having treatment with other cancer drugs, you may have some side effects that we haven’t listed here. 

Always tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about any side effects you have.

Your doctor can give you drugs to help control some side effects. 

It is important to take them exactly as your nurse or pharmacist explains. This means they will be more likely to work for you. 

Your nurse will give you advice about managing your side effects. 

After your treatment is over, most side effects start to improve.

Serious and life-threatening side effects

Some cancer treatments can cause severe side effects. Rarely, these may be life-threatening. Your cancer doctor or nurse can explain the risk of these side effects to you.

Contact the hospital

Your nurse will give you telephone numbers for the hospital. If you feel unwell or need advice, you can call them at any time of the day or night. 

Save these numbers in your phone or keep them somewhere safe.

More information

We cannot list every side effect for this treatment. There are some rare side effects that are not listed. You can visit the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) for more detailed information.


Common side effects

Change in periods

Your periods will usually stop while you are having this treatment. This is caused by the lower levels of oestrogen in the body. When you finish goserelin treatment, your periods are likely to start again. But some women go through their natural menopause during treatment and their periods don’t come back.

Even if your periods stop, you can still become pregnant. You need to make sure that you use effective contraception while having goserelin. You can discuss this with your doctor or nurse.

Vaginal bleeding or dryness

This treatment can cause vaginal changes. Bleeding may happen when you start this treatment or when you change to it from another treatment. If bleeding continues for more than a few days, tell your doctor or nurse.

You can use gels or lubricants to help with vaginal dryness and any discomfort during sex. You can buy these from a chemist, or your doctor can prescribe them.

Hot flushes and sweats

These are common. During a flush, your neck and face may feel warm and look red. Flushes can last for a few seconds or up to 10 minutes. You may have sweats then feel cold and clammy. Some people feel anxious or irritable during a hot flush.

There are things you can do to try to reduce flushes:

  • Wear clothes made from natural fabrics, such as cotton.
  • Dress in layers of clothes that you can remove as needed.
  • Use cotton sheets and have layers of bedding.
  • Keep the room temperature cool or use a fan.
  • Have cold drinks rather than hot ones. Try to avoid drinks with caffeine in them.

You may have fewer hot flushes and sweats as your body adjusts to hormonal treatment. Or your doctor can prescribe drugs to help. Some people continue to have flushes and sweats but they usually stop a few months after treatment finishes.

You can read more about coping with hot flushes in our information about managing menopausal symptoms.

Loss of sex drive

Your sex drive may be lower while taking this treatment. Talk to your doctor or nurse for advice. We have more information about coping with the effects of treatment on your sex life.

Mood changes

Some people have mood changes and feel low or depressed when having this treatment. Let your doctor or nurse know if you notice any changes.

Breast swelling or tenderness

You may get swelling and tenderness of your breast tissue. Talk to your nurse if this is a problem.

Tumour flare

If you start this treatment for cancer that has spread to the bones, you may get pain in the bones when you start taking it. Doctors call this tumour flare. Your doctor can give you treatment to help with this.

High calcium levels in the blood

If you have goserelin to treat breast cancer that has spread to the bones it may cause high calcium levels in the blood (hypercalcaemia). This is not common. But if it happens you may feel sick or be sick (vomit), be very thirsty, constipated or, sometimes, confused. If you have any of these symptoms, let your doctor know straight away so they can treat it.

Skin rashes

You may get a mild skin rash. Tell your doctor or nurse if this happens. If you get a severe skin rash it’s very important to contact your doctor straight away. Some women may get acne a few weeks after they start taking goserelin.

Hair thinning

Some women notice that their hair becomes thinner while having goserelin. This is usually mild and goes back to normal after treatment finishes.

Headaches

This treatment may cause headaches. If this happens, tell your doctor or nurse. They can give you painkillers.

Muscle or joint pain

You may get pain in your muscles or joints. If this happens, tell your doctor so they can give you painkillers. Being physically active and keeping to a healthy weight may help with the pain and keeps your joints flexible. Let your doctor or nurse know if it does not get better.

Bone thinning

Taking this treatment for several months or more can cause bone thinning. This is called osteoporosis. This can increase your risk of a broken bone (fracture). You may have bone density scans to check your bone health before and during treatment.

Taking regular exercise such as walking, plus eating a healthy diet, helps look after your bones. Your doctor may prescribe drugs called bisphosphonates to help protect your bones. They may also advise you to take calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Tingling in your fingers or toes

Goserelin may cause changes in sensation in the hands and feet. This is usually mild. Let your doctor or nurse know if you have this.

Blood pressure changes

Goserelin may cause low or high blood pressure. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have ever had any problems with your blood pressure. Let them know if you feel dizzy or have any headaches.

Always let your doctor or nurse know about any side effects you have. There are usually ways in which they can be controlled or improved.

Physical activity after breast cancer treatment

Joy explains how she followed exercises that were tailored to her cancer type and gradually became more active after breast cancer treatment to help with her recovery.

About our cancer information videos

Physical activity after breast cancer treatment

Joy explains how she followed exercises that were tailored to her cancer type and gradually became more active after breast cancer treatment to help with her recovery.

About our cancer information videos


Other information

Fertility

Some drugs can affect your fertility (whether you can get pregnant).

Your periods may become irregular or stop. This may be temporary, but for some women it is permanent. Your menopause may start sooner than it would have done.

There may be ways to preserve fertility for women. If you are worried about fertility, it is important to talk with your doctor before you start treatment.

Contraception

Your doctor will advise you not to become pregnant while having this treatment. The drug may harm a developing baby. It is important to use an effective, non-hormonal contraception during your treatment and for a few months after it finishes. Even if your periods have stopped or are irregular you still need to use contraception. You can talk to your doctor or nurse about this.

Other medicines

Some medicines can affect the hormonal treatment or be harmful when you are having it. This includes medicines you can buy in a shop or chemist. Tell your cancer doctor about any drugs you are taking, including vitamins, herbal drugs and complementary therapies.

Medical and dental treatment

If you need medical treatment for any reason other than cancer, always tell the doctors and nurses that you are having cancer treatment. 

Give them the contact details for your cancer doctor so they can ask for advice.

If you think you need dental treatment, talk to your cancer doctor or nurse. Always tell your dentist you are having cancer treatment.