Women and men in Scotland are keeping their hair during chemotherapy treatment, thanks to Scalp Coolers provided by Walk the Walk.
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the charity is raising awareness of these amazing machines which can prevent or reduce hair loss for people undergoing certain types of chemotherapy treatment.
For many patients, losing their hair is the most visible sign of their treatment for cancer and can have a huge impact on their self-esteem. Keeping their hair can help people retain their identity, as well as a small sense of normality.
As hair loss is not considered life-threatening, NHS funding for Scalp Coolers is not a priority. Over the last twelve years, grants have been made by Walk the Walk for 625 machines in 247 hospitals in the UK.
Of these, 57 machines have been granted to 26 Scottish Hospitals. The charity is committed to removing the postcode lottery and offering more and more people the choice of using the machines.
Hazel Burns, 45, from Edinburgh, used a Scalp Cooler when she was having chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer last year. She said: ‘I’ve kept roughly 70-80% of my hair – enough that it covers my head but I can feel it is thinner. If I put my hair in a ponytail, I’ve not got much, but really its only me that notices it.
‘If I knew that this would have been the end result of chemotherapy, I’d have been far less worries about it. I would absolutely recommend using the Scalp Coolers to patients undergoing chemotherapy.
‘Keeping my hair meant I could continue to lead a normal life with the same privacy I had before. I was also able to keep things normal for my kids which I am sure helped them deal with things.’
Dr Caroline Michie, consultant medical oncologist in the Edinburgh Cancer Centre at the Western General Hospital said: “Patients with breast cancer often have a number of treatments which affect their body image and confidence, in addition to the physical side-effects. Hair loss is the number one most upsetting side-effect of chemotherapy for most patients, as is it such a visible reminder of their illness.
‘Scalp cooling is the only treatment which can reduce chemotherapy-related hair loss, and for those for whom it works well for, it can allow patients to keep their hair, allowing them to feel more like themselves and to have more confidence in facing the outside world.
‘Even just having the possibility of a reduction in the risk of hair loss can help psychologically in the early stages of diagnosis when patients are coming to terms with what might lie ahead. We are delighted to work with Walk the Walk to help provide this treatment for our patients.’
Nina Barough CBE, founder and chief executive of Walk the Walk said: ‘Losing your hair whilst having chemotherapy, is often the final straw for many cancer patients and can be completely debilitating.
‘Over the past 12 years Walk the Walk has worked incredibly hard towards removing the postcode lottery that has meant in some areas, cancer patients were unable to receive the choice of this treatment. It has been very important to us that we grant Scalp Coolers to as many NHS Hospital Trusts throughout the U.K. as possible.
‘We believe that everybody should have the choice of using one of these amazing machines. I’m delighted that Hazel Burns was able to use one of the Pink Walk the Walk Scalp Coolers at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh. And a huge thank you to all the wonderful women and men who took part in The MoonWalks for raising the funds to enable this to happen.’
Walk the Walk is best known for its famous MoonWalks, when walkers take on marathon challenges in Edinburgh, London and Iceland at Midnight wearing brightly decorated bras.
For more information, or to sign up for a Walk the Walk event, visit walkthewalk.org.