As if being diagnosed with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy treatment wasn’t enough, patients then have to content with another distressing outcome: total loss of hair.

For many, this is the hardest part of their cancer battle.

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Sue Sadler, our campaign ambassador and two-time cancer survivor, said that after her doctors and surgeons told her that her hair was going to fall out again, she considered not undergoing the treatment:

“After a lot of procrastination and appointments and talking to my oncologist, I then decided I would proceed with the treatment. But along with that came the option of scalp cooling.”

What is scalp cooling?

Scalp cooling is a simple treatment that can prevent hair loss caused by certain chemotherapy drugs. The use of scalp cooling or ‘cold caps’ is proven to be an effective way of combating chemotherapy-induced hair loss and can result in a high level of retention or complete preservation of hair.

“When I investigated what scalp cooling was all about, I felt a little bit more feminine about myself knowing I wasn’t going to lose my hair completely. It would be thinning of my hair, but it would grow back a lot quicker.” – Sue Sadler

The Paxman Scalp Cooling System has been pioneering scalp cooling technology for over a quarter of a century. Today, there is more than 2000 cold cap systems used across 32 countries worldwide.

Originating in the UK, this technology is widely used in Europe but we have only a few machines available in Australia. Our Coolheads campaign aims to purchase two scalp cooling machines for Victoria’s public health system.

How does it work?

scalp-machine-smallerChemotherapy works by targeting all rapidly dividing cells in the body. Hair is the second fastest dividing cell in the body and this is the reason why many chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss. The hair follicles in the growth phase are attacked, resulting in hair loss approximately 2 weeks after the commencement of chemotherapy.

The scalp cooling machines are “a little refrigerator” that pumps through a coolant solution via tubes into a scalp cooling cap and it reduces the amount of blood flow to the hair follicles. By reducing the temperature of the scalp by a few degrees immediately before, during and after the administration of chemotherapy, it can prevent or minimise the hair loss.

How is it applied?

Pre-cooling of the scalp takes 30 minutes prior to commencement of drug infusion. This ensures the scalp is at the required temperature before chemotherapy is administered. The cap is worn throughout the administration of the chemotherapy drugs and for 90 minutes afterwards.

Patients can relax, read and visit the bathroom during the cooling process without affecting their treatment.

Can all cancer patients benefit from it?

Although women are the most affected by hair loss, men can also take advantage of this technology.

The cold cap can be used with all solid tumour cancers that are treated with chemotherapy drugs such as taxanes (e.g. docetaxel), alkylating agents (e.g. cyclophosphamide) and anthracyclines/DNA intercalating agents (e.g. doxorubicin).

Scalp cooling cannot be used with the following conditions:

  • Haematological malignancies (leukaemia, non Hodgkins and other generalised lymphomas)
  • Cold allergy
  • Cold agglutinins
  • Manifest scalp metastases
  • Imminent bone marrow ablation chemotherapy
  • Imminent skull irradiation

Does it really work? Will I keep all my hair?

scalpThe success rate following use of the Paxman system in breast cancer patients is 89%, with only 11% with severe
hair loss requiring wigs.

The level of success is determined by how well the scalp temperature is lowered and maintained throughout the treatment period. It also depends on factors such as type and stage of cancer, age, hair type, hair condition
and general health.

Patients may experience some hair loss and overall thinning of the hair whilst using scalp cooling, and the normal shedding cycle of the hair will continue. However, such patients should persevere with the process as many people report hair growth during their chemotherapy treatment whilst using scalp cooling. This is because new hair growth is also protected from the chemotherapy.

Are there any side effects? 

There are a few complaints of uncomfortable physical sensations. However, these are temporary and usually only happen during the scalp cooling process.

Generally, patients feel comfortable and safe when the cap is correctly worn.

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For further information check http://paxmanscalpcooling.com/scalp-cooling or leave a comment below!

Help make this technology freely available 

We are raising funds for the purchase of two scalp cooling machines that will help many women undergoing breast cancer treatment at Maroondah Hospital – for free. Make a donation today. Every dollar counts.

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