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Scalp Cooling

The Paxman cold cap system can help retain hair during chemotherapy and is offered at Cape Cod Hospital.

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Published on December 15, 2021

A Life-Changing Cooling CapA Life-Changing Cooling Cap

By Roberta Cannon

When I faced chemotherapy treatments a few years ago, the prospect of losing my hair was one of the most personal and anxiety-producing realities. I couldn’t bear the thought of waking up one morning with clumps of hair falling out and strewn across my pillow.

My hairdresser was willing to come to my house to shave my head in privacy. My sister and a good friend held my hands as my head was shaved. That was followed by friends and neighbors stopping by with pizza, wine and gifts of hats to support my transition into being bald. I am forever grateful they took the time to share such an intimate time in my life.

While I didn’t have any other options at the time of my treatment, many women and men now do, thanks to the scalp-cooling system called Paxman Scalp Cooling. This system, which is now available at the Davenport-Mugar Cancer Center at Cape Cod Hospital, helps cancer patients keep their hair while going through certain chemotherapy treatments.

“It may help to preserve or decrease the hair loss and, with some regimens (chemotherapy), you can do that significantly,” said Cape Cod Hospital Hematologist/Medical Oncologist Edward J. Wyluda, DO. “The system slows the blood flow and slows delivery of the chemotherapy to the hair follicles. This reduces the amount that gets to the hair follicles and decreases the loss of hair.”

The cooling cap, which is a helmet-like hat, is filled with a cool liquid that is attached to a small refrigeration machine that is computer-controlled. The liquid is kept at 32 degrees F. and circulates through the cap throughout the chemotherapy treatment.

The system is a new addition to the oncology department at CCH and one patient is currently using it during her chemotherapy treatment.

“Things are going very well for her so far,” said Dr. Wyluda. “She has been very happy with it, and her response has been very good in that we have not seen much hair loss.”

While the system is available for both women and men, the effectiveness of the device depends on the type of cancer you have and the type of treatment you are having.

“We know with certain treatments, the benefit is probably greater with the Paxman than with other regimens,” said Dr. Wyluda. “For example, in patients who are on Taxol, a chemotherapy, and Herceptin, a targeted therapy, the data shows up to possibly 80-90 percent of patients may maintain most of their hair. But with other combined chemotherapy drugs, the likelihood of hair loss around the crown of their head may be significant.”

Steps to Take

When a patient expresses interest in using the Paxman system, they will meet with one of the oncology nurses who will give them information to read over and will review details a little further. They will also meet with the Mary Sprout, the oncology social worker, to talk a little more, go through insurance and determine what is covered. Sometimes, some of it can be covered by insurance, but there may be an out-of-pocket expense.

“We meet with them, counsel them, and see what we can do to help before pursuing it,” said Dr. Wyluda. “It’s something we can do to help make this process a little bit more tolerable for them, especially when patients have a high concern about hair loss and are already going through stress and anxiety with their underlying diagnosis.”

This story will also appear in Cape Cod Health News.

 

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