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New technology for chemotherapy patients reduces risk of hair loss

The 'cold caps' system is now operational in Armidale Hospital, thanks to a Foundation grant.

Monday, 27 November, 2017

Armidale Hospital is now home to an advanced scalp cooling treatment that reduces hair loss for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. 

The relatively new treatment was made possible by a $49,313 grant from the Foundation to the Cancer Council NSW, which enabled the hospital’s oncology unit to fit out a room with eight silicon cooling caps to treat 15-20 patients each week.  

Foundation Chair Phil Neat said it was pleasing to know there are solutions to promote patient well-being during what is generally a very distressing time. 

"For many patients, hair loss during chemotherapy is a very traumatic side effect as it means an obvious change in a patient’s physical appearance – reducing their confidence and overall well-being," Mr Neat said. 

The oncology unit installed the Paxman Orbis II (Double Cap) system, which can provide cooling for one or two patients simultaneously with each cap working independently. The caps, known as 'cold caps', pump coolant through light silicon caps that a patient wears during treatment to extract heat from the scalp. 

The caps reduce the temperature of the scalp by a few degrees immediately before, during and after the administration of chemotherapy. This reduces the blood flow to the hair follicle, which reduces the risk of hair loss.

Charitable Foundation director Julie Ainsworth presenting a grant cheque to Paul Hobson and Jennifer Leslie from Cancer Council NSW
Foundation director Julie Ainsworth, Paul Hobson from Cancer Council NSW and director Jennifer Leslie.

"For some people, hair loss is a reason not to undergo chemotherapy treatment. Having the scalp cooling treatment available at Armidale Hospital means we can help around 10,000 patients in New England over the program’s lifespan."

Armidale Hospital General Manager Wendy Mulligan

The caps reduce the temperature of the scalp by a few degrees immediately before, during and after the administration of chemotherapy. This reduces the blood flow to the hair follicle, which reduces the risk of hair loss. 

Armidale Hospital General Manager Wendy Mulligan said the cold caps were a state-of-the-art treatment that can drastically reduce the risk of hair loss. 

"For some people, hair loss is a reason not to undergo chemotherapy treatment. Having the scalp cooling treatment available at Armidale Hospital means we can help around 10,000 patients in New England over the program’s lifespan," she said.

"We know the treatment works and, for many patients, will form an effective remedy for the physical and mental side effects of chemotherapy."

Cancer Council NSW community engagement coordinator Paul Hobson said that the treatment would form an integral part of the overall support network for cancer patients in the Armidale Region.

"We are proud to collaborate with Armidale Hospital and Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation to ensure our community has access to this technology without having to travel for treatment," he said.

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