Chemo and Hair Loss: Maybe Not With The Paxman Scalp Cooling System

Chemo and hair loss have usually gone hand in hand. It’s often one of the first questions women ask when they learn they need chemotherapy: “Will I lose my hair?”

 In the past, the answer has nearly always been yes. Now, for some Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers patients, the answer will be “maybe not.”

Chemo and hair loss may not have to be a given for Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers chemo patients because RMCC is now offering the hair-preserving Paxman Scalp Cooling System for patients receiving chemotherapy

Patients purchase their own Paxman Personal Cap Kit, which includes a soft, flexible snug-fitting silicone cap, and a neoprene cap cover that fits over it. The kit also includes:

  • A headband, which is placed below the ears to reduce discomfort
  • Spray bottle to moisturize hair before putting on the cap
  • A detangling hairbrush
  • Hair conditioner and shampoo
  • A brochure with instructions for using the cap, and specific hair care-related information

To use the system, patients take the contents of the kit with them to treatment. The company also recommends taking along warm clothing and a hat. Most patients will start the cold cap treatment 30 minutes before chemotherapy infusion begins, wear it the entire time during chemotherapy treatment, and for an additional 90 minutes after the treatment is completed.

The cap is cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for women having chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer.  The Paxman cap was introduced in 1997, after the company chairman’s wife experienced hair loss with chemo for breast cancer.

Clinical research has shown that scalp cooling is very effective across a wide range of chemotherapy regimens. A recent multicenter clinical trial found that among women with stage I and II breast cancer who received chemotherapy with taxane, anthracycline, or both, those who underwent scalp cooling were significantly more likely to have less than 50% hair loss after the fourth chemotherapy cycle than those who received no scalp cooling.

Moderate hair loss of 30% – 50% is expected after using the cold cap. There is no guarantee scalp cooling will prevent all patients undergoing chemotherapy from losing any or all of their hair, as success rates vary from patient to patient, depending on the chemotherapy regimen administered.

The system works by cooling the scalp, which causes blood vessels to constrict. When blood vessels constrict, blood flow is reduced. When that happens during chemotherapy, it means less of the chemotherapy drug reaches the hair follicles. And, researchers believe the cooling may also reduce biochemical activity, which makes hair follicles less vulnerable to damage from chemo.

The very cold temperature may be uncomfortable, especially at first. Other documented side-effects are relatively minor and end when the cooling process ends. They include:

  • Headache
  • Forehead pain
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

Currently, Paxman treatments are not covered by insurance. Patients pay an initial $500 for the cap itself. Then the cost is $200 per treatment for the first four treatments, $150 for the second four, and $100 for the final four. However, oftentimes, grants are offered to patients to help cover the cost of the cooling system treatments.

Women who are interested in trying the system should talk to their physician before beginning chemotherapy.

To learn more visit the Paxman Scalp Cooling System website.