Alopecia caused by cancer treatment is certainly not the most dangerous side-effect of chemotherapy, but it does have a huge impact on patient’s emotional wellbeing. The combination of hair loss and the stigma of dealing with a serious illness can be very isolating. But Paxman Coolers, a cooling technology company that makes beer coolers for pubs, is changing that with its new scalp-cooler for cancer patients.
At any given time 90 per cent of human hair follicles have cells that are rapidly dividing – a process that is halted by cancer chemotherapy treatment as it kills off the malignant cells. In many patients hair loss occurs due to partial or total atrophy of the hair root bulb, causing constriction of the hair shaft, which then breaks off easily.
The Embracing Life scalp-cooling cap slows blood flow to the scalp by lowering the temperature around the head, thereby reducing the hair follicles’ exposure to the cancer-fighting chemicals as they move around the body in the bloodstream.
The soft silicone cap is user-friendly and cost-efficient, and has proven to be very effective. It has been designed to fit snuggly around the patient’s head and is available in five different sizes.
The cool sensation is said to be similar to the “brain freeze” you feel when you eat too much ice cream too quickly, and should not affect the body temperature of a patient. It is worn before, during and for a short while after the chemotherapy treatment, in sessions lasting between two and three hours.
Glenn Paxman, the company’s chairman, began investigating the potential benefits of a cooling cap in 1997 after his wife lost her hair during breast cancer treatment. Today the Paxman System is used extensively throughout the UK both in NHS hospitals and private clinics. Paxman Coolers has also distributed the cooling cap in many other countries throughout Europe and is currently trialing it in other parts of the world.