For Kelly Rodamich of Tafton, Pa., being diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 45 in March 2018 was upsetting enough. “One day you’re worried about laundry and things around the house, and the next you’re afraid of what the future holds and whether you’ll live,” she says. But even while undergoing total hysterectomy and pondering six sessions of chemotherapy, something else concerned her. “In the back of my mind a little voice was saying, ‘I don’t want to lose my hair,’” says Rodamich, whose mane flows to the middle of her back. When gynecologic oncologist Martin Martino, MD, with LVPG Gynecologic Oncology, told her about a new and innovative technology that might preserve her hair called the Paxman Scalp Cooling System, she readily agreed to try it.
Reducing blood flow
The system consists of a tight-fitting head cap along with a device that circulates coolant through it. Cooling the scalp reduces blood flow to hair follicles, which then take up less chemotherapy drug. “Our hope is that with this new innovation, we can reduce, if not prevent chemotherapy-induced hair loss. However, success rates can vary greatly with different chemotherapy drugs,” Martino says. “I’d seen family and friends go through cancer treatment and knew how devastating hair loss can be,” Rodamich says. “I would do whatever I could to prevent it.
Rodamich wore her cooling cap 30 minutes before starting a chemotherapy infusion, all during and 90 minutes after. “I was concerned it would be an involved process, but it really wasn’t,” she says. Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute is the first and only center in our region to offer the Paxman Scalp Cooling therapy, and nurses were curious about Rodamich’s results. “They were well-trained and supportive,” Rodamich says.
Minimal hair loss
Rodamich noticed some thinning after her first chemotherapy session. “In about two weeks it stalled,” she says. “After that the loss was so minimal that people who don’t know me would have no idea I had cancer.” Scalp cooling is only used for patients with solid tumors (not cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma or other contraindicated conditions), and patients are responsible for the therapy’s costs, Martino notes. “For appropriate patients, removing a key quality-of-life issue related to chemotherapy’s side effects can make a tremendous difference.”
– Richard Laliberte