Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy have faced the almost inevitable prospect of losing their hair – until now.
A new scalp cooling system that preserves hair during treatment has recently become available at Southern Highlands Private Hospital.
DigniCap is a silicone-based cap that a patient can wear during treatment to cool their scalp.
The cap is connected to a computer-operated controlling unit and has multiple sensors in it to maintain a consistent temperature.
The cooling action is intended to reduce the blood flow to the scalp, which reduces the amount of chemotherapy that reaches the hair cells. The cold also descreases the activity of the hair follicles, which slows down cell division and makes them less affected by chemotherapy.
The combined actions are thought to make the cells more resistant to chemotherapy, which reduces hair loss.
Hair loss is one of the most common side effects of cancer treatment, but Southern Highlands Private Hospital’s nursing unit manager, Jo Pearson, said patients no longer have to worry about it.
“The main benefit to our patients is the ability to go under the radar and not be identified in the community as a cancer patient but as just themselves,” Ms Pearson said.
“The DigniCap is empowering and allows our patients to maintain self-esteem and a sense of privacy.”
Relatively new to Australia, Southern Highlands Private Hospital is one six hospitals in New South Wales that offers the service.
The hospital’s cancer centre received a donation from an anonymous donor, which allowed the Ramsay Health Care-owned facility to purchase the system.
“We’re very lucky to have this piece of equipment donated to our hospital by an anonymous member of our local community and we’re extremely thankful,” Ms Pearson said.