DETROIT (WXYZ) — One of the most difficult side effects of chemotherapy for many breast cancer patients is hair loss.
In the United State, about one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during their lives. When chemotherapy is given, many women experience hair loss because chemotherapy kills fast-growing cancer cells, but also knocks out fast-growing healthy cells, such as those in the hair follicles.
But Henry Ford Cancer Institute is testing out a solution. According to the Institute, breast cancer patient Laura Carey was among the first breast cancer patients 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 to be cooled. Experts says scalp cooling reduces the damage chemotherapy causes to hair follicles by immediately decreasing the scalp's temperature and reducing 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 Laura 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 a good candidate for the treatment depends on the woman's type of breast cancer and the chemo recommended for her treatment plan.
“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.
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