Breakthrough technology may keep breast cancer patients from losing their hair during chemotherapy

Date: 10/02/2019

Supporters launch campaign to bring hair preservation technology to Maine

Hair loss is one of the most devastating side effects of chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer, affecting many of the estimated 1,400 Maine women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019. Now, several Bangor-area community members, business owners, and healthcare provider are working together to bring new technology to Maine that will allow women to keep some or most of their hair during treatment.

The FDA-approved technology includes a lightweight silicone cap that patients wear for 30 minutes before treatment, during treatment, and for an hour after treatment. Cold fluid from a cooling device circulates through the cap, lowering the temperature of the scalp to below freezing and reducing blood flow to the hair follicles by 20 to 40 percent. By cooling the scalp, many chemotherapy patients experience significantly less hair loss.

“Hair loss can change a woman’s attitude toward treatment, and some women may even decline life-saving chemotherapy,” says Kimberly Lieber, MD, a Northern Light breast surgical care specialist. “Breast cancer affects women in so many ways. This technology gives women some control over their journey, at a time when so much else in their lives has been turned upside down.”

The campaign to bring this technology to the Lafayette Family Cancer Institute is spearheaded by Carrie Meo, who lost her best friend Robin Ball to cancer in 2016.

“Robin was a young and intelligent businesswoman with a young family, working in the beauty industry,” says Carrie. “When you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, a lot of things are going through your head. It’s hard enough dealing with the chemo, radiation, and possibility of mastectomy. Losing your hair on top of all that is unfair.”

The campaign, in memory of Robin, is raising funds to cover the equipment lease and offset the cost of silicone caps for each patient, which are not covered by insurance. While it will begin as a pilot program for breast cancer patients, it could be expanded to patients who are being treated for other solid tumor cancers.

The campaign has raised more than one-fifth of the $250,000 needed to make this technology available to breast cancer patients in Maine. To learn more or support the campaign, please call 973.5055 or email foundation@northernlight.org.