Scalp cooling treatment for Gloucestershire patients

Breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are now being offered new scalp cooling therapy this week thanks to a grant from the Walk the Walk charity.

Scalp cooling is a simple treatment that can prevent hair loss caused by certain chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy works by targeting all rapidly dividing cells in the body. Hair is the second fastest dividing cell and this is the reason why many chemotherapy drugs cause alopecia. The hair follicles in the growth phase are attacked, resulting in hair loss approximately two weeks after the commencement of the chemotherapy treatment.

The damage that chemotherapy causes to the hair follicle can be alleviated by using scalp cooling, also known as the 'cold cap'. It works by reducing the temperature of the scalp by a few degrees immediately before, during and after the administration of chemotherapy. This in turn reduces the blood flow to hair follicles which may prevent or minimise the hair loss.

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Oncology Lead Nurse Tracey Cullerne has been working alongside the charity and manufacturer Paxman to provide this service, as she explains:

“We were so pleased when our Oncology Department at Cheltenham General Hospital was awarded the £97,000 grant from Walk the Walk charity to purchase eight scalp cooling machines. This also included a comprehensive maintenance, consumable and training package and it is very exciting times.

“Our staff have been trained over the last few weeks and they are now keen to get the service off the ground so our patients can start getting the benefits.

“The team in Oncology have been fantastic; we set up a working group with Health Care Assistants, registered nurses, medical staff, admin staff and our Oncology Practice Development team to implement this quality improvement project.  I’m confident it will improve the service we are able to provide to our patients receiving chemotherapy, as loss of hair can have a devastating impact on some patients. The scalp coolers can help keep hair loss to a minimum, which means patients feel better in themselves and helps maintain a sense of ‘normality’ during chemotherapy”.

The first patient to make use of the scalp cooling therapy was Audrey Knapp on Tuesday 9th May. Audrey said: “I was so pleased to be given the opportunity to try scalp cooling”.

Founder and Chief Executive of Walk the Walk, Nina Barough CBE said: “I have seen for myself just how utterly devastating hair loss can be for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, so I am absolutely delighted that Walk the Walk continues to do something very tangible to help improve the overall experience of cancer treatment for the people at the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. What makes it very special is that it has all been achieved by our walkers and supporters taking on a challenge and putting one foot in front of another, so everybody really is benefiting.”

Sales and Training Director at Paxman, Claire Paxman, commented: “We are delighted that the people of Gloucestershire will now have the opportunity to access and benefit from scalp cooling to maintain a degree of control during their chemotherapy treatment.  It has been an absolute pleasure to work alongside oncology Lead Nurse Tracey Cullerne in implementing this important development in supportive care, which could not have been possible without the generous grant of funding by Walk The Walk.”