Oct 7, 2019
By David McCrory
Did you know that it is now possible for cancer patients to prevent significant hair loss?
Following a 5-year trial, under the leadership of UCSF’s Breast Cancer Center Director, Dr. Laura Esserman, and UCSF hematologist/oncologist Dr. Hope Rugo, there is now an FDA-cleared a scalp cooling system that mitigates chemo-induced hair loss. Initially cleared for breast cancer, scalp cooling is now cleared for use during chemo treatment for all solid tumor cancers.
Scalp cooling is non-invasive and effective for many chemotherapy regimens. A patient wears a cold cap beginning just before chemo and continues during the duration of the chemo infusion and for about 90 minutes afterward. Chilling down the scalp creates vasoconstriction –causing the blood vessels in the hair follicle to tighten up and constrict the flow of blood and therefore chemo, into the follicle. Chilled cells also replicate more slowly and are therefore less vulnerable to chemo, which is explicitly designed to target fast-growing cells.
The automated scalp cooling systems are sophisticated refrigeration units that run a special coolant through a cap, maintaining the optimal temperature for the proper effect. Patients can also rent caps and utilize a manual technique for scalp cooling in locations where automated systems have not yet been introduced.
Scalp cooling has tremendous potential to transform the cancer treatment journey.
In one study, 8% of female-identifying cancer patients refused chemo treatments for fear of losing their hair. So not only can scalp cooling help a patient maintain their privacy, identity, and sense of normalcy and well-being, it might also save their lives!
“Your hair is your daily boost of confidence. It symbolizes femininity, health, and personality. For many women, it’s their crowning glory.”This was a quote from my friend who is helping me raise money for low-income cancer patients to save their hair throughHairToStay.
Personal identity is a core part of our mental health and well-being. When you lose your hair, even if you use a wig or a scarf, everybody suspects you have cancer. You can’t go to work or out on errands without immediately being seen as “sick.” And many younger women are especially concerned about the impact that sudden baldness has on their children and spouses.
While some people can rock the bald look, not everyone can. And now with scalp cooling, it can be a choice. However, it currently can only be a choice for those with significant means. Unfortunately, the insurance industry has yet to get behind scalp cooling, and coverage of any sort is only available through a minimal number of insurance carriers and plans.
HairToStay is here to level the playing field, providing subsidies to low-income patients, so that they can afford the option of scalp cooling.
Since its founding in 2016,HairToStay has awarded subsidies of $1,000 to $1,500 to nearly 1,500 low-income cancer patients – covering anywhere from 50% - 100% of the cost of the treatment. All eligible patients in Sonoma County can each receive $1,500 due to support from local charitable donors, like Amy’s Foods and The Safeway Foundation.
As a volunteer for HairToStay, it has been so rewarding to work with an organization that helps make an immediate difference in supporting the lives of cancer patients. This year, we are producing a program calledHairToStay The Diva Way. We believe that being able to save one’s hair during chemotherapy is a critical way for our recipients to maintain their inner and outer sense of Diva-ness—strong, resilient, empowered, and beautiful!
More than 95% of our patients identify as female, another reason for our empowering “The Diva Way” theme.
HairToStay, The Diva Way, will be held on November 7, 2019, at The Herbst Theater. The event will feature Grammy award-winning singer Isabel Leonard, who has had lead roles in top opera houses around the world. Mezzo-soprano Silvie Jensen works with San Francisco Symphony Chorus and San Francisco Opera. Soprano Shawnette Sulker has performed with San Francisco Opera and Santa Rosa Symphony. We will also have patients and doctors who will share their insights and experience with the audience. Dr. Laura Esserman and Dr. Sanziana Roman from UCSF Cancer Center, will be our“Singing Surgeons.”
We are the first and only national non-profit providing subsidies to these vulnerable populations and creating awareness for the medical and general community. Consider joining as a sponsor of the event. It will be a fantastic evening!
You can get your tickets here: http://www.hairtostay.org/diva/
If you can’t make it, please make a donation to HairToStay.Org and help cooler heads prevail!
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