‘Cool’ new equipment prevents chemotherapy hair loss

When breast cancer patient Sharren Kershaw started her chemotherapy treatment, she prepared herself for unpleasant side effects and the reality that she would lose her hair.

But thanks to your generosity, the 56-year-old mother of two still has a full head of hair.

Your support, together with the Flinders Medical Centre Volunteer Service and generous fundraisers in our community, purchased a scalp cooling system to help prevent hair loss in patients receiving chemotherapy at Flinders.

The $45,000 system works by patients wearing ‘cold caps’ to reduce the temperature of the scalp, and reduce blood flow to hair follicles to prevent or minimise hair loss.

In the short time it’s been at Flinders, the equipment has so far helped eight patients who are receiving chemotherapy for breast and ovarian cancers.

For Sharren, keeping her long locks has been a shining light during gruelling treatment for the cancer, which had also spread to her lymphnodes, liver and back.

“Hair loss is one of those things you associate with chemotherapy, so I was prepared to lose my hair,” Sharen says.

“I always said, ‘it’s better to be bald and alive’.

“Women aren’t all vain creatures, but when it comes to hair we all like to have a hair style, it’s part of our persona.

“It’s been truly amazing that I haven’t lost any hair. Even the Flinders staff are amazed, as they told me they fully expected I would have lost my hair by now.”

Preventing hair loss was even more important for Sharren, who was keen to hide extensive scarring on her head – the result of accident 11 years ago when she required 136 head stitches after being hit by a truck whilst working as a medic.

“Still having my hair has been one less thing to worry about. When I look in the mirror, I still see me - I don’t have to see a bald, scarred woman,” Sharren says.

“And even though I still have cancer, I look good and that makes me feel great.”

When the scalp cooling system is fitted to Sharren’s head during treatment, she describes it as ‘a bit of a brain freeze’ with some slight initial discomfort from the cool temperature, before it soon subsides.

“It’s a bit like shoving your head in an esky for a few minutes,” Sharren jokes.

“But I just distract myself with a cup of tea and crackers and chat to my partner Steve, and then I soon get used to it. I’m very grateful for the chance to give it a try because it’s really worked.”

Bringing the scalp cooling system to Flinders was supported by Eboney Sheehan, who retained much of her hair after using the system during chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer at Lyell McEwin Hospital. Her fundraising efforts, together with a generous contribution from the Flinders Medical Centre Volunteer Service helped Flinders Foundation purchase the equipment.

You too can support patient care and research at Flinders by making a donation to Flinders Foundation. Get in touch with the Flinders Foundation team on (08) 8204 5216 or info@flindersfoundation.org.au to discuss areas you can support.

You can help fund equipment at Flinders Donate Now

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