Source: Mary Alford, The News-Enterprise
A concern facing some cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments is whether or not they will lose their hair.
Hardin Memorial Health is hoping to alleviate some of that stress.
HMH recently announced it will be the first in Kentucky to offer the Paxman Scalp Cooling System with a little financial help through the Hardin Memorial Health Foundation.
The system uses what is called a cold cap to reduce scalp temperature immediately before, during and after a chemotherapy treatment. The cooling reduces the blood flow to hair follicles which helps to prevent or minimize hair loss.
Hardin Memorial Health Cancer Care Medical Director Dr. Adam Lye M.D. said the technology is an additional benefit HMH can offer patients who are facing an emotional cancer journey.
“Patients often ask me if they are going to lose their hair,” he said. “With the Paxman Scalp Cooling System, we can try to alleviate that stressor and allow the patients to focus on their treatment.”
Although it has been available in Europe for some time, the device only recently was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Lye said HMH was at the top of the waiting list for the new technology.
“We were asking for it probably before other people knew what it was,’’ Lye said. “We were at the very forefront of it. So we got at the top of the list.”
Hardin Memorial Health put their cooling cap system into service July 11.
The Paxman Scalp Cooler is available in two models to allow either one patient to be treated or two patients to be independently treated at the same time. HMH has the model for two patients. The system also offers many benefits for use in hospitals, small chemotherapy suites and private beds.
Breast cancer patient Jamie Owen of Elizabethtown was the first person to use the new device at HMH’s Cancer Care Center. Owen, a mother of two young children, was diagnosed April 20 and began chemotherapy May 3.
“When I received my diagnosis, my immediate concern was, and still is to stay alive,” Owen said. “But I was concerned that losing my hair would scare my kids.”
Owen said Lye mentioned the clinic was obtaining a cold cap system in July and explained to her “that basically, it is an extremely cold cap that freezes the hair follicles while you are getting the chemo because the chemo is what makes your hair fall out,” she said.
Because the new device was not arriving at HMH until July, Owen said she went ahead and used alternative cold cap methods, such as rentals through Arctic Cold Caps. With this method, Owen said she had to change caps every 15 to 20 minutes, start the treatment 45 minutes ahead of chemotherapy and continue the cold cap therapy for at least four hours after the infusion came to an end.
“Eight caps were constantly being rotated,” she said. “It was very miserable. Very tiresome.”
When the cancer care center received the Paxman Scalp Cooling System in July, Owen returned her rented caps and made the switch.
She had to purchase her own cap for the system, which is form fitting to her head. During the treatments, the cap maintains a temperature of 32 degrees.
“With this, I was able to go to sleep for like an hour-and-a-half, which I have never been able to do for any of the chemo treatment,” she said. And, unlike the other, Owen said she only needed to stay and use the cooling cap an extra 90 minutes after her chemo treatment. She still does, however, have to wear it up to 45 minutes before the treatment.
There also are strict guidelines on what Owen can do with her hair during the treatments. She said she only is allowed to wash her hair one to two times a week with a mild shampoo; she cannot comb it and she cannot use heated products, such as straighteners or hair dryers.
Despite the guidelines, Owen said she definitely would recommend using the cooling caps to others going through the same situation as her.
“If you have to deal with cancer anyway, this is just one step of making it a little easier, a little more tolerable, being able to keep your life as normal as possible,” she said. “I am grateful to have this technology available close to home. The cooling caps are such a blessing for me and my family.”
And, with only two more chemotherapy treatments scheduled, Owen’s prognosis is looking good. She said one of the masses is completely gone, while the other mass has shrunk from the size of a golf ball down to a pencil eraser.
Owen said the whole process was made easier through ample support from her family and the community.
Lye said taking care of the whole patient is critically important.
“We know when we also take care of patients’ emotional and spiritual needs, it helps to optimize healing,” he said.
Hardin Memorial Health Foundation Chairman Joe Prather expressed his gratitude to donors who made the cooling cap system possible.
“This is exactly the kind of breakthrough investment we want to make,” Prather said. “HMH already provides high quality cancer care and our Foundation helps HMH take that care to the next level.”