ROCKY HILL, CT - “Am I going to lose my hair?” is often the first question breast cancer patients ask when they initially find out they need chemotherapy. Now Starling Physicians, a recognized leader in cancer care across Connecticut, is offering women a groundbreaking scalp cooling treatment that reduces or eliminates hair loss. Starling is one of the only oncology practices in the area to provide access to the most trusted FDA-approved technology to help patients manage one of the most traumatic side effects associated with cancer treatment.
“In addition to fighting the arduous physical battle against breast cancer, our patients wage a psychological/ social war that is extremely difficult,” said Dr. Daniel Morganstern, a premier breast cancer subspecialist at Starling Physicians. “For women receiving chemotherapy, preserving their own hair allows them to regain some control, ensure some privacy, and bolster their self-esteem through one of the worst times of their lives.”
Starting in July, Starling is making the Paxman Cooling System available to their patients. Patients make payments directly to the manufacturer and Starling practitioners administer the treatment as part of chemotherapy. The technology is currently offered at leading cancer centers including Dana Farber, Memorial Sloane Kettering, and throughout Europe.
“This system is one of a number of advancements that can not only help patients to successfully navigate therapy, but more importantly helps them hold their lives together,” said Dr. Morganstern. “Mitigating hair loss certainly aids in helping our patients maintain a positive attitude toward treatment.”
Dr. Morganstern explains that people lose their hair because many chemotherapy drugs used to treat breast cancer, including taxanes and anthracyclines, target all rapidly dividing cells in the body, and hair is the second fastest dividing cell. Chemotherapy damages hair follicles (at the root of the hair), resulting in hair loss about two weeks after the start of chemotherapy. Cooling the scalp to between 64 and 71 degrees Fahrenheit has been clinically proven to reduce blood flow to the area around the hair follicles, which can prevent or minimize hair loss.
The Paxman Personal Cap Kit is federally regulated and categorized as a Restricted Medical Device. By definition, it can only be sold through an enrollment form completed and submitted by a physician. Starling staff can help patients register for the program. Patients purchase and keep the silicone cap and all accessories needed for a scalp cooling treatment at a cost of $500. Additionally, chemo cycles 1 through 4 cost $200 per cycle. Cycles 5 and 6 are $150 per cycle. Cycles 7 through 12 are $100 per cycle. Patient expenses are capped at $2,200. Paxman is currently not covered by insurance; however, there is financial assistance available through HairToStay, which can dramatically reduce the cost.
Caps are sized to the individual patient. During chemotherapy treatment, carefully trained Starling staff members will administer the use of the cap. This will require the patient to be there for an additional 30 minutes prior and 90 minutes post-treatment. Starling Nurse Supervisor Rachel Akerley assures that every effort will be made to ensure the comfort of the patient throughout the treatment.
“Tolerance of the cold feeling experienced while having scalp cooling varies widely from person to person,” said Dr. Morganstern. “Patients may initially experience discomfort or pain from the cold in the first 10 to 15 minutes of treatment. This is transient and is likely to go away as the patient gets used to the cold.”
Dr. Morganstern notes it is important to understand that moderate hair may occur but that this system has achieved wide success around the world. For instance, some studies have noted a 80-90% success rate after use of the cold cap system in breast cancer patients, with only a small percentage facing severe hair loss requiring wigs.
“Starling’s main goal is to provide comprehensive, cutting edge cancer care while caring for a patient’s overall wellbeing. I work with each patient as an individual and place a strong emphasis on education and empowering women so that they can make informed decisions about every aspect of their care plan,” concludes Dr. Morganstern.
Starling Physicians is Connecticut’s leading multispecialty group. The practice is owned and led by physicians with a deep commitment to providing the highest quality care, while building enduring relationships with their patients. More than 300 physicians and other medical practitioners provide primary and specialty care across 27 specialties in 32 locations across Connecticut. For more information about scalp cooling at Starling, visit www.starlingphysicians.com/keephair.