One of the most feared side effects from chemotherapy treatment is hair loss, but scalp cooling can help patients maintain their locks.
Patients undergoing cancer treatment may be able to preserve their hair with scalp cooling, a process that makes hair follicles cold during chemotherapy treatment, thus shrinking the blood vessels and decreasing the amount of drugs that make it to the hair.
While scalp cooling devices were OKed by the Food and Drug Administration only a few years ago, the implementation of cold cap use in community-based cancer centers is feasible and beneficial to patients, according to recent research presented at the 47th Annual Oncology Nursing Society Congress.
“Chemotherapy-induced alopecia is a side effect of many cancer treatments, and it’s one of the most feared side effects in greater than 75% of patients,” said study author Linda Amacher, an oncology infusion nurse at Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin, while presenting the findings at the conference.
After reviewing research supporting that cold caps were safe and efficacious, and realizing that both patients and providers were interested in their use, Amacher and her team set off to determine if and how scalp cooling could be brought to their hospital.
Within a week after nurses received training on scalp cooling, the first patient utilized a cold cap during treatment. Since then, 15 patients enrolled in the cold cap program, with more than 80 treatments being successfully completed.
“Patients who have completed all treatment (with cold caps) have expressed high satisfaction on our evaluation form and are happy to report retaining more than 50% of their hair expected,” Amacher said.
The team’s presentation included the quote of a patient who used a cold cap for hair preservation. The individual said, “It really sucks to go through cancer treatment … I am so glad I had scalp cooling … I am so appreciative I was given this chance to save my hair and keep a part of my identity.”
This study proved that implementing a scalp-cooling program is certainly feasible in many cancer centers and as such, may continue to grow. That will be the case for the campuses of the Medical College of Wisconsin.
“There was a quick adoption by nurses and processes were integrated into clinic and infusion workflows without significant challenges,” Amacher said. “Having successfully launched scalp cooling at our Froedtert West Bend Cancer Center, we now have plans to offer scalp cooling at our second site in Oak Creek in the summer of 2022.”
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