Goserelin for breast cancer

Goserelin is a type of hormone therapy Open a glossary item. It is also known as Zoladex.

You pronounce goserelin as gos-er-e-lin.

This page is about goserelin for breast cancer in women who haven’t gone through menopause Open a glossary item.

Goserelin is also a treatment for prostate cancer and is sometimes used to treat men with breast cancer.

How does goserelin work?

Goserelin is a type of hormone therapy called a luteinising hormone blocker Open a glossary item. This means it stops the release of luteinising hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland Open a glossary item. Hormones are natural substances made by glands in our bodies.

Blocking LH stops the ovaries from making oestrogen Open a glossary item. So you only have this treatment if you haven’t had your menopause. After menopause the ovaries don’t produce oestrogen, so this type of drug won’t work.

Goserelin is a treatment for people who have oestrogen receptor positive Open a glossary item (ER positive) breast cancer. This means that the cancer has proteins (receptors) for the hormone oestrogen.  

How do you have goserelin?

You have goserelin as an injection just under the skin of your tummy (abdomen). It is called a depot injection, which means that the drug is slowly absorbed into your body over a period of time. 

You might have stinging or a dull ache for a short time after this type of injection but they don't usually hurt much. The skin in the area may go red and itchy for a while.

How often do you have goserelin?

You can have goserelin every 4 weeks or 12 weeks. The period of time between each depot injection must be the same. Let your doctor or nurse know if your next appointment isn’t either 4 weeks or 12 weeks depending on how often you are having goserelin.

You usually have goserelin injections for a long period of time.


You might have blood tests before starting treatment and during your treatment. They check your general health and might check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood.

What are the side effects of goserelin?

Side effects can vary from person to person. They also depend on what other treatment you are having. 

When to contact your team

Your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist will go through the possible side effects. They will monitor you closely during treatment and check how you are at your appointments. Contact your advice line as soon as possible if:

  • you have severe side effects 

  • your side effects aren’t getting any better

  • your side effects are getting worse

Early treatment can help manage side effects better.

We haven't listed all the side effects here. Remember it is very unlikely that you will have all of these side effects, but you might have some of them at the same time.

Common side effects

These side effects happen in more than 10 in 100 people (more than 10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:

Hot flushes or sweats

We have some tips for coping with hot flushes in women. We also explain some of the possible treatments. Talk to your doctor if your hot flushes are hard to cope with. They might be able to prescribe you some medicines.

Less interest in sex (low libido)

Talk to your doctor if you have this. You might be able to have some treatments to help with low libido. 

This can continue for some time after you stop having goserelin. 

Inflammation around the injection site

Tell your nurse straight away if you have any pain, redness, swelling or leaking around your drip site.

Skin changes

You might notice skin changes, such as dryness, itching and rashes similar to acne on your face, neck and trunk. 

Tell your doctor if you have any rashes or itching. Don't go swimming if you have a rash because the chlorine in the water can make it worse.

If your skin gets dry or itchy, using unperfumed moisturising cream may help. Check with your doctor or nurse before using any creams or lotions. Wear a high factor sun block if you’re going out in the sun.

Vaginal dryness

This drug can cause vaginal dryness. You can get vaginal moisturisers (lubricants) from your nurse or from the pharmacist.

Changes in your breast size 

You might notice small changes in your breast size. They usually return to normal once you stop treatment.

Occasional side effects

These side effects happen in between 1 and 10 out of every 100 people (between 1 and 10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:

  • tingling in your fingers or toes
  • hair loss
  • weight gain
  • joint pain
  • changes in blood pressure. This could be high blood pressure or low blood pressure.
  • changes in your mood, including feeling depressed
  • headache
  • worsening of symptoms, this usually doesn’t last long and will go away by itself
  • thinning of your bones
  • changes to the way your heart works

Rare side effects

This side effects happens in fewer than 1 in 100 people (fewer than 1%). You might have one or more of them. They include:

  • an allergic reaction that can cause a rash, shortness of breath, redness or swelling of the face and dizziness. Some allergic reactions can be life threatening, alert your healthcare team if notice any of these symptoms.
  • development of a pituitary tumour, this is very rare
  • small cysts in your ovaries which can cause pain and usually disappear by themselves
  • early menopause, this means your periods won’t start again when treatment stops
  • seeing, hearing or feeling things that aren’t there. Always let your healthcare team know if this happens.
  • high levels of calcium in your body

Other side effects

There isn't enough information to work out how often these side effects might happen. You might have one or more of them. They include:

  • a blood clot in the lung causing shortness of breath, chest pain or both. Tell your healthcare team if you have these symptoms.
  • bone pain
  • changes to how the liver works
  • inflammation of the lungs causing shortness of breath, a cough or both
  • a drop in the number of blood cells

Coping with side effects

We have more information about side effects and tips on how to cope with them.

What else do you need to know?

Other medicines, foods and drink

Cancer drugs can interact with medicines, herbal products, and some food and drinks. We are unable to list all the possible interactions that may happen. An example is grapefruit or grapefruit juice which can increase the side effects of certain drugs.

Tell your healthcare team about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies. Also let them know about any other medical conditions or allergies you may have.

Pregnancy and contraception

This drug may harm a baby developing in the womb. Let your healthcare team know before you start treatment if there is any possibility that you may be pregnant. It is important not to become pregnant while you are having treatment and for a few months afterwards. Goserelin is not a contraceptive and, even if your periods have stopped, you could become pregnant while you are having treatment. 

It is important to use reliable contraception, such as a condom or cap (diaphragm), throughout the treatment. Don't take the pill (oral contraceptive). Discuss this with your healthcare team. Talk to your healthcare team about effective contraception before starting treatment.


Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through into your breast milk.

Treatment for other conditions

Always tell other doctors, nurses, pharmacists or dentists that you’re having this drug if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.

More information about this treatment

For further information about this treatment and possible side effects go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website. You can find the patient information leaflet on this website.

You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

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