Cancer type: Breast
Drug type: EC, Docetaxel & Paclitaxel
Hair type: Long, Fine
"Prior to starting chemo I met with Ann Armstrong at The Christie who asked whether I would be using the cold cap and strongly advised that I tried it as she said they were seeing increases in long term hair growth problems so this is why I decided to try it."
My name is Michelle, I’m now 42, I was 38 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I live in Manchester and I’m a Business Development Manager.
I have no family history of breast cancer. I admit I never really checked my breasts and almost accidently spotted a lump in my right breast but just presumed it would be a cyst. My GP said I was likely too young for it to be anything worrying but it was worth getting it checked out and I went for a mammogram on 17 December 2015. I was immediately asked to have an ultrasound and biopsies and found out the same day I had breast cancer.
On 23 December (great timing) I was told I had stage 3 breast cancer which was HER2 positive (aggressive) and oestrogen positive. I decided to have chemo first which started in January 2016 with the hope that it would shrink the tumour enough to have a lumpectomy. After finishing chemo in May 2016, I was told it would be better to have a mastectomy and remove my sentinel nodes. Post-surgery there were some traces of cancer in those nodes so I needed to have a further surgery to remove all the lymph nodes under my right arm. I then started 15 sessions of radiotherapy in September 2016 and I’m now on a maintenance programme of zoladex injections to stop my ovaries working (stop me producing oestrogen) and exemestane tablets to reduce the chance of the cancer returning. I’ve also chosen to go on an add aspirin drug trial which is looking at whether adding aspirin post treatment reduces the chance of the cancer returning.
I started chemo in January 2016. The plan was for 3 rounds of EC and 3 rounds of docetaxel but after the first round of docetaxel I felt very ill and was told it wouldn’t be good to continue with docetaxel and so I needed to have 6 rounds of weekly paclitaxel. I had chemo at The Christie Hospital in Manchester.
As soon as I was diagnosed I did the usual thing of getting on Facebook breast cancer groups and started to read threads on scalp cooling which on the whole were largely negative and I’d made the decision not to bother with it. Prior to starting chemo I met with Ann Armstrong at The Christie who asked whether I would be using the cold cap and strongly advised that I tried it as she said they were seeing increases in long term hair growth problems so this is why I decided to try it.
I was petrified going for my first chemo session and I remember feeling teary walking through the hospital. I sat down and the nurse asked if I’d be using the cold cap to which I said yes. She asked why I hadn’t been told to cut my long hair shorter in advance and seemed a little fed up that I’d requested it. The first 20-30 mins of each time I used it I found the pain really unpleasant and almost like your head was in a vice (I later learned that I shouldn’t have had it pulled down over my forehead or I should have at least protected my forehead which I didn’t know).
Once I started my 5th round of chemo and moved on to weekly paclitaxel I decided I didn’t want to continue with the cold cap and everything I had read had pointed to docetaxel as the high-risk drug for long term hair growth and I felt I was emotionally at a point I could handle losing the rest of my hair.
Around day 18 post my first chemo I started to lose a lot of my hair – around 50% I’d say but I was so glad that I’d used the cold cap and didn’t lose everything all in 1 go. On my second and all subsequent uses of the cold cap I found the nurses really supportive and putting the cold cap on was no trouble at all so that really put me at ease.I would put a big blanket over me and get my husband to bring a steady stream of warm drinks as well as some trashy mags to distract me.
I’d lost 50% of my hair whilst using the cold cap and if you didn’t know me you would have just thought I had thin hair. After stopping to use the cold cap I then lost all my hair but have had really good hair growth once my chemo finished and now my hair is thicker than before which I feel sure is because I used the cold cap initially.
I did a lot of reading and which suggested that in general the main thing to do was to ensure you were kind and gentle with your hair and to avoid sulphates – sadly they’re in the vast majority of shampoos. I had to go online to order sulphate free shampoos (I used Watermans at the time and wasn’t aware that Paxman do their own range). I have carried on with sulphate free shampoos ever since.
Even though I didn’t use Paxman Scalp Cooling for my whole chemo journey I am so so glad I used it for my first 4 rounds. My children were 3 and 5 when I was diagnosed and I think mentally for me and my family it was easier mentally to deal with me losing my hair gradually. I’m totally convinced I wouldn’t have a fantastic thick head of hair that I have not had I not used scalp cooling as I had 1 round of docetaxel.
I would absolutely recommend scalp cooling, as it helped me emotionally deal with losing my hair gradually and I believe it’s helped with my long-term hair growth.
"Even though I didn’t use Paxman Scalp Cooling for my whole chemo journey I am so so glad I used it for my first 4 rounds. My children were 3 and 5 when I was diagnosed and I think mentally for me and my family it was easier mentally to deal with me losing my hair gradually. "