Hair Conservation During Cancer Treatment

Posted on: April 25, 2019

By Tiffany Svahn, MD


One of the most common questions patients ask during our discussion of breast cancer treatment is, “Will I lose my hair?” For many women who go through chemotherapy, losing their hair is an unwelcome reminder of their diagnosis. It can cause stress and anxiety, and often negatively affecting their self-image and sense of well-being.

However, there is a new treatment option giving hope to many patients. The FDA recently issued a clearance for “scalp-cooling systems” that help prevent chemotherapy-induced alopecia (hair loss) for patients with solid tumor cancers. These scalp-cooling systems provide automated cooling to the patient’s scalp during chemotherapy treatments. Cooling the cells on the scalp reduces blood flow and cell metabolism to this area, which helps to protect the hair follicles from chemotherapy. Scalp cooling can significantly minimize hair loss from certain chemotherapy treatments for men and women with solid tumor cancers such as those associated with breast, prostate, ovarian and uterine.

Diablo Valley Oncology is the first freestanding cancer center in the Bay Area to become certified and trained to offer the Paxman Scalp Cooling System to patients.

We have incorporated this new technology into the services we offer at our Women’s Cancer Center of the East Bay’s Multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Clinic. Patterned after academic centers, our Multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Clinic evaluates patients with diagnosed breast cancer in a comprehensive, single-day setting to minimize the time between diagnosis and treatment. In the initial appointment, women meet with a breast surgeon, medical oncologist and a radiation oncologist. After a tumor board discussion, each physician consults with the patient and presents the most appropriate course of treatment based on the consensus opinions from the panel of physicians. This one-day team approach spares patients and their family the anxiety and uncertainty of waiting days or weeks between individual appointments.

One of the main goals of our program is to reduce the anxiety experienced by patients diagnosed with cancer. Because the Paxman Scalp Cooling System addresses the stress of hair loss, it is a natural addition to our practice. Reducing the patient’s anxiety and stress allows them to focus their energy on what’s most important: getting well and putting cancer behind them.

The NCCN Guidelines now recommend scalp cooling as a category 2A treatment option for patients with invasive breast cancer, you can read the full brief here.

Dr. Svahn is a Medical Oncologist and Breast Cancer Specialist with Diablo Valley Oncology and Hematology Medical Group in Pleasant Hill. She is the Medical Director of the Women’s Cancer Center of the East Bay. Contact information: 925-677-5041or