Helping to keep your hair on!

Many people undergoing chemotherapy in the UK are completely unaware that scalp coolers exist let alone that they could help cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy to keep their hair. Losing your hair can be the final straw and can have a devastating impact not only on the patient but also their families, particularly children.

What are Scalp Coolers?

These amazing machines, developed by Glenn Paxman as a result of his own wife losing her hair through chemotherapy, are compatible with most chemotherapy drugs and have received some wonderful results. Many people have reported that their hair loss was so minimal that using the machines enabled them to 'just feel normal' whilst undergoing treatment.

What is the aim of Walk the Walk?

We aim to put scalp coolers in hospitals throughout the UK, including training for staff and maintenance and as a result enable ALL cancer patients to have the equal opportunity and choice to receive a treatment that can make a beneficial difference to how well they manage their treatment.

So how do scalp coolers work?

Prior to receiving the chemotherapy drug, the scalp cooler (which consists of a lightweight silicone cap connected to a small refrigeration unit) is placed on the head. Ensuring the cap fits well, the machine reduces the temperature of the scalp creating a restriction in the amount of blood reaching the hair follicles. This protects the hair follicle from the effects of the concentrated chemotherapy drugs carried in the blood stream and increases the chance of retaining the hair. The cap continues to be worn during administration of the drugs and then for a calculated time afterwards. The total time the cap is worn ranges from 1½ hours up to 5 hours, with the average time being 2 to 2½ hours.

April Allpress, from Romford, Essex, used a Scalp Cooler when she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer in 2016. She said:

“My hair is my crowning glory, I was keen to try anything to help prevent as much hair loss as possible. I didn’t really have any apprehensions about using one as my friends, Maria and Amanda, were so thrilled with their results that I was determined to give it a go! My hair went a little thin in a couple of places but I could pull my hair back into a ponytail that covered the thin areas and no one could even tell there was a problem. Once my chemo finished the thin areas started to grow back and quickly mixed in with my other hair. My hair is now just as good as it was before.”

Lesley Boyce from Scunthorpe, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and used a Scalp Cooler during her chemotherapy treatment. She said:

“To me, losing my hair was going to be a big thing. I wanted to try to look as normal as possible for my eight-year-old son and my family. The Clinical Sister from the chemo suite told me about the Scalp Cooler and said it would be worth a try if I wanted to give it a go. I persevered with it and am so pleased that I did because after twelve cycles I still had a head of hair - yippee!” 

Where can you find them?

At present it is a real postcode lottery, not all hospitals have the equipment, so patients are not informed of the treatment. In some areas, machines are available but not enough to offer all patients treatment, and in some cases, the hospitals do not feel that it is an important part of treatment. Over the last twelve years, grants have been made by Walk the Walk for 625 machines in 247 hospitals across the country. A detailed map can be found here

Dunise Maciver, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, used a Scalp Cooler when she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer in 2015. She said:

“Amazingly, by using the Scalp Cooler, I kept the majority of my hair. There was a small part that thinned on the top, but my hair is really thick so no one noticed except me! By using the Scalp Cooler I was able to feel less like a cancer patient and people were surprised that I was having chemotherapy and still had my hair. It gave me a little bit of normality in a horrible situation which was really invaluable.”

Sharon Green, from Norwich, used a Scalp Cooler when she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer in 2016. She said:

“I liked my hair and it was what made me “me” and I didn’t want to lose my identity. I felt I had nothing to lose but my hair! I had a little tear when I saw the three Scalp Coolers at the Hospital were donated by Walk the Walk. I had taken part in The MoonWalk twice and it made me realise what the walkers go through to raise the money for things like this. You just never think it will happen to you!”

Jo Richardson is the Macmillan Lead Cancer Nurse, at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. She said:

“For many of the women and men we treat with chemotherapy, the prospect of losing their hair can be their greatest concern. For some patients having certain types of chemotherapy, hair loss can be prevented or at least be reduced, thanks to the Scalp Coolers we have been granted by Walk the Walk.  Because of all the walkers who have put one foot in front of the other and taken part in a MoonWalk, many of our patients maintain their dignity, sense of control and wellbeing during an already difficult time.”

FInd out how you can help

There are a number of ways in which you can support Walk the Walk...