Hair loss for cancer patients is a traumatic experience. However, it is now possible to reduce hair loss in patients undergoing chemotherapy. A new treatment offered at Rambam Health Care Campus significantly reduces hair loss in breast cancer patients.
Hair loss has long been a dreaded side effect for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Recently, we have learned that cooling the scalp during chemotherapy may significantly reduce alopecia (hair loss). Rambam's breast-cancer patients are now benefitting from the Paxman Scalp Cooling System, which helps prevent chemotherapy-induced alopecia.
How does cooling the scalp prevent hair loss? This is a simple procedure in which women wear a specially designed silicone cap while undergoing chemotherapy. The cap is connected to tubes containing a coolant, significantly reducing the scalp's average temperature and causing the scalp's blood vessels to shrink. As a result, the amount of chemotherapy medicine that reaches the hair follicles is reduced, making the hair less likely to fall out.
Dr. Shlomit Lubovsky, an attending physician in Rambam's Joseph Fishman Oncology Center and a breast cancer specialist, explains, "The system is effective in reducing hair loss following treatment with certain drugs. However, before starting treatment with the system, it is important to examine the exact composition of the chemotherapy drugs the patient will receive. In light of the experience we have gained, we can make adjustments to improve the outcome."
Dr. Lubovsky adds, "As the medical staff gains more experience using the system and adapting it to patients, the chances of success are greater."
Dr. Lubovsky and Rambam resident Dr. Yelena Shirman are conducting a study that closely follows these patients. "Our team works together to give patients as positive an experience as possible during their treatment and to preserve their quality of life. The scalp cooling treatment is part of this effort," says Dr. Lubovsky.
Women undergoing chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer at Rambam can request the cooling cap at the beginning of their treatments.