One of the most difficult side effects of chemotherapy for many breast cancer patients is hair loss.
In the United States, about one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during their lives. When they undergo chemotherapy, many women experience hair loss. While the chemo kills fast-growing cancer cells, it also knocks out fast-growing healthy cells, like those in hair follicles.
But Henry Ford Cancer Institute is now testing out a potential solution. According to the Institute, breast cancer patient Laura Carey was among the first people to reduce her hair loss during chemotherapy by using a device called Paxman.
The innovative ice-free device is a cap that picks up heat from the scalp and moves it back into a cart refrigeration system for cooling. Experts say scalp cooling reduces the damage that chemotherapy causes to hair follicles. The Paxman cap decreases the scalp’s temperature and also reduces blood flow around the follicles. This helps to minimize or even prevent hair loss.
“I came back to work after chemotherapy treatment and nobody knew my health status,” said Carey, a 51-year-old corporate director at a major health system in Southeast Michigan. “I can be out with friends and family and they don’t focus on the fact that I’m sick. Even though it’s just the hair that they see, it may give them confidence that I’m still the same, or things are going to be OK.”
Dr. Haytham Ali says doctors must take multiple factors into account when choosing potential candidates for the treatment. They must consider the type of breast cancer a patient has, as well as the recommended chemotherapy.
“This is not about vanity. It is about women being able to keep their privacy. Using a hat or bandana declares to the community that something is going on with this person, and patients may not want to disclose that. It can be very distressing,” said Dr. Ali, senior medical oncologist for the Breast Cancer Program at Henry Ford Cancer Institute.
The Paxman scalp cooling system is FDA-approved. You can check out an overview of the system in this video from Paxman’s YouTube Channel below:
For those interested in learning more about the service, you can also visit the Henry Ford Institute’s website to get more information.
Written by Fatima Bangura for WXYZ. Additional reporting by Simplemost staff.