Like many women undergoing cancer treatment, Bundaberg resident Helena Adams was concerned about losing her hair.
But a complementary therapy that limits hair loss in patients receiving chemotherapy has been made available in the northern Queensland regional centre for the first time.
The Paxman Scalp Cooling System works to reduce the temperature of the scalp immediately before, during and after chemotherapy treatment. This reduces the blood flow to hair follicles, which can prevent or minimise hair loss.
“When I first saw my oncologist Dr Jain, he suggested I could have it done, but I would have to go to Brisbane,” Mrs Adams said.
“But as my treatment was weekly, I didn’t fancy having to travel to Brisbane. So I came to terms with losing my hair and had purchased things like scarfs.”
The Friendlies Foundation – the charitable fundraising arm of the Friendly Society Private Hospital in Bundaberg – purchased the $50,000 scalp cooling machine and Mrs Adams was the first patient to make use of the technology.
“When I turned up for my first treatment, Dr Jain said actually, The Friendlies had a new machine that had arrived the day before,” she said.
“We say that it was just meant to be.”
Mrs Adams said that, a business owner, preventing hair loss gave her the comfort of choosing who to tell about her treatment.
“I have had some natural thinning but I haven’t lost any clumps of hair,” she said.
“People who don’t know me wouldn’t know I was having chemotherapy.
“I think this kind of treatment is beneficial to everyone, but especially to people in the public eye.”
Scalp cooling is a simple treatment that can prevent hair loss caused by certain chemotherapy drugs. The use of scalp cooling or ‘cold caps’ has been proved to be an effective way of combating hair loss.
Chemotherapy works by targeting all rapidly diving 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 about two weeks after the start of chemotherapy.
Nurse Unit Manager of Day Oncology, DA Halpin, said it was great to be able to offer the scalp cooling technology at a local level.
“A lot of patients, especially women, feel very self-conscious when they start to lose their hair as a result of chemotherapy treatment,” Ms Halpin said.
“We are so pleased we can now offer this service locally so patients don’t have to make the difficult decision of traveling to Brisbane to access this new hair-saving therapy.”
The Friendlies Foundation public relations officer, Tunja Cottier, said the foundation would continue to support the Friendly Society Private Hospital as it worked to provide oncology services locally.
“The need for oncology services continues to grow,” Ms Cottier said.
“This donation by The Friendlies Foundation has enhanced The Friendlies ability to improve patient outcomes by funding this equipment which goes beyond the treatment of cancer and supports the patients emotionally.”