Healthwatch Northumberland was contacted by someone who reported that cold cap hadn’t been available for them during cancer treatment at Hexham General Hospital. The cold cap is a special cap filled with cold gel that can reduce hair loss caused by chemotherapy. It works by reducing the amount of chemotherapy drugs reaching the hair follicles.
We contacted some local groups for more information and were invited to attend a coffee morning held by the Northumberland Cancer Support Group. The people we spoke to seemed sure there is in fact a cold cap available at Hexham Hospital. Some people told us that they were offered the cold cap treatment but declined because of potential drawbacks and limited success rates; others told us that because of the type of cancer and its severity, they had not been eligible for this type of treatment.
We also met a volunteer with Macmillan Cancer Support at the coffee morning, who agreed to ask some questions when she was next at the hospital. The volunteer got back in touch with the following information:
“Hexham Oncology Day Unit has two cold caps. These are offered to patients and are readily available as appointments can be made to accommodate everyone. Usually the patient’s consultant would have discussed the situation with them beforehand.”
“Everyone is eligible but the consultant may be of the opinion that the patient could be at risk of metastasis to the brain if taking a certain drug during treatment.”
Healthwatch Northumberland also spoke to the staff on the Macmillan Cancer Support bus which was visiting Hexham at the time. They suggested two useful websites for further information on hair loss during treatment:
Further research concluded that it is the decision of the individual cancer specialist whether or not the cold cap is suitable for a patient. Cold cap treatment is not available for use during radiotherapy. It can be used with chemotherapy but if the chemotherapy treatment is very strong or if the patient has very long periods of chemotherapy treatment, the cold cap will not be suitable. In short, the severity of the cancer and the strength of the treatment will determine whether the cold cap is recommended.