Losing your hair may no longer be a fear for breast cancer patients as a pilot gets underway in Nelson testing new technology.
The Breast Cancer Foundation NZ (BCFNZ) is funding a pilot of a scalp cooling machine that will help determine the number of women who keep more than half their hair and don't require a wig after chemotherapy.
It will also determine the number of women who keep more than half their hair and don't require a wig.
It will also establish how much extra clinic time is needed for the process, and keep tabs on whether anyone drops out, and if so, why.
The foundation is now inviting breast cancer patients undergoing chemo to take part in the trial which is being led by consultant medical oncologist Dr Kate Gregory.
Dr Gregory said the hair loss was the side effect of chemo that patients "dreaded most".
"Scalp cooling has been offered internationally for many years. Making the scalp cold means that the blood vessels constrict, limiting the amount of chemotherapy that reaches the hair follicles. Recent studies have shown that at least 50 per cent of women retained their hair and didn't need to use a wig."
Natasha Holland, a breast cancer patient who recently finished chemotherapy, agreed.
"I was shocked how quickly my hair fell out. For me, hair loss was one of the three big milestones, along with diagnosis and surgery. I'd have loved to have had the opportunity to keep my hair," she said.
The chief executive of BCFNZ, Evangelia Henderson, said the pilot was made possible thanks to the organisation's "generous donors"
"Breast cancer is a heartless disease that affects thousands of Kiwis every year. If we can help minimise patients' hair loss by providing this machine, we'll have gone some way toward reducing their distress and improving their quality of life."
The new scalp cooling machine cost the Breast Cancer Foundation $67,500.
A specialist nurse is also being paid to operate the machine for its first six months.