Not all chemotherapy drugs cause alopecia (hair loss). But approximately 65 percent of individuals who undergo chemotherapy will experience some degree of hair loss. Some people wear wigs or hats and look forward to the re-growth of their hair.
"Approximately 8 percent of patients are so troubled by the thought of losing their hair that they decide to forego chemotherapy, despite it being the best way to treat their cancer," says Gerald Browne, RN, nurse manager of infusion therapy. The Naka Infusion Center at Emerson Hospital now offers patients the option of using the Paxman scalp cooling system, which is clinically proven to reduce or prevent hair loss resulting from chemotherapy. The Paxman system, which is FDA approved, uses a mechanism known as vasoconstriction.
"This produces cooling, which reduces blood flow to the hair follicle, effectively reducing the amount of chemotherapy drug delivered to the hair follicle," Mr. Browne explains. Chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cells. Hair cells divide rapidly and are vulnerable. Health plans do not yet cover the cost associated with use of the Paxman system.
"Offering this system is a way to be as sensitive as we can to the needs of our patients," notes Jon DuBois, MD, cancer center medical director. The cancer center currently is one of only four in Massachusetts to offer the Paxman system.