Beating chemo-related hair loss with Scalp Cooling

Posted by in Looking Good, Treatments, Well being | 1 comment

When cancer survivor Lizelle Knott was diagnosed with breast cancer, there was one thing that she just couldn’t accept: losing her hair. Again. At age 16, Lizelle had been diagnosed with Stage IV Lymphoma, and the treatment made all her hair fall out – a devastating experience for a young girl. Now a wife and mother, Lizelle had no choice about fighting cancer a second time – but this time, she made up her mind to hang onto her hair. Like so many who have grieved the loss of their hair, for Lizelle this wasn’t about vanity, it was about privacy. Having the right to decide who gets to know that you are sick, and how they learn about it. With a fifteen month old toddler to consider, Lizelle also wanted to look “normal” for his sake. Psychiatrist Dr Tanveer Baig of the Royal Marsden Hospital in London says that hair loss is the symptom associated with the most distress two months after surgery; as many as 8% of cancer patients say they considered refusing treatment because of expected hair loss. On the other hand, according to Dr Baig, there is increased tolerance for the other side effects of chemotherapy if hair loss can be reduced. Lizelle had heard about a non-invasive treatment which can prevent hair loss during chemotherapy, and decided to try it with the support of her oncologist in East London. The principle is simple: Hair grows from follicles lying just below our scalps. They are energy rich and require a good blood supply. If the scalp can be kept cold enough, growth activity in the follicle is suppressed, reducing blood flow. What’s more, the small blood vessels around the follicles constrict, allowing minimal blood to get through. The first few hours of a chemotherapy treatment is a critical time to protect the hair roots so that hair does not fall out. So how hard can it be, just to keep a cool head for those few hours? In practice, it was far from simple to rescue her crowning glory! The use of Cold Caps to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy was trialled in Europe as long ago as 2000 and is now going through further tests in California and New York. So far, the trials have shown an 81% success rate. As many as 50 000 patients worldwide have tried scalp cooling, yet it’s still not well known nor offered in most cancer treatment centres. Undeterred, Lizelle persisted with the help of resourceful staff at GVI Oncology in East London, who put her in touch with GVI Cape Town (Sandton Oncology Centre in Johannesburg can also help). East London had two Elastogel Hypothermia Caps, and...

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Crowning glory – from PE with love

Posted by in Blog, Looking Good, Well being | 0 comments

“People always ask me how long it takes to do my hair. I don’t know, I’m never there.” ― Dolly Parton When we think of wigs, the picture coming to mind might be something that screams “Diva”. As Dolly herself often says “it takes a lot of money to look this cheap!” Patients undergoing chemotherapy face a dilemma: whether to “go bald” and brave it out with caps and scarves, or cover up with a wig. Tracey Gervais (Wigs@Hair@Tracey’s, Amble In Centre, Main Road, Walmer) understands that helping a woman find the perfect wig is a ministry to her soul. Patients at Bay Breast Care had recommended Tracey, so we got together with her recently.  Here’s what we learned. After running a successful hair salon in Port Elizabeth for 33 years, Tracey was given a golden opportunity last year, to take over a long standing wig-fitting business. She’d always loved wigs, but sharing premises with expert wig fitter Norbert for a year in 2012 really inspired Tracey as she saw the clients come in looking ordinary, and go out with their new wigs “looking fantastic”. Tracey even asked Norbert if she could work alongside to learn from him – but he turned her down, explaining that his approach was always very personal, sensitive and extra-respectful of clients’ privacy so he wouldn’t be comfortable with that – an attitude that made Tracey respect him even more. But when the time came a year later for Norbert to retire, he offered Tracey the business, and she couldn’t have been more honoured that he was putting his trust in her. (We aren’t surprised. Tracey’s caring approach and love for people is obvious). Women undergoing treatment for cancer form the majority of clients, then and now. Tracey says that her clients often fear losing their hair more than breast surgery: “So many women tell me, ‘Maybe my hair won’t fall out’. I ask them, ‘What does your doctor say? That hair loss is a side effect? Then it is going to fall out, so let’s make a plan before it happens”. With chemotherapy, hair usually takes at least a year to return fully – and it may not look the same as before. It could grow out grey if hormone replacements have been stopped, or have a different texture. Keeping it under the wig until you’re ready buys time to decide on a style that works for you in the longer term. “My word is ‘enhance’, because the right wig makes a woman look and feel so much better than she did before, yet it’s still her own look”, says Tracey.  “When a client is so happy and excited to go out with her new wig, well,...

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All I want for Christmas is my two front….implants

Posted by in Blog, Looking Good, Procedures, Surgery | 0 comments

As the former director of French breast-prosthesis company Poly Implant Prosthese (PIP) contemplates the hefty jail sentence that he and his cohorts have just received for selling defective breast implants around the world, it may be time for a closer look at implants and how best to live with them. A breast implant is not just for Christmas – it’s a long term commitment, yet not a “happily ever after” that you have done and never have to bother with again. In recent years, encouraged by the “extreme make-over” culture, the eye-popping silicone-enhanced bosoms of squadrons of celebs and the greater affordability of cosmetic procedures, breast enhancement has taken off in unprecedented ways. Not everyone is thrilled with this, however. Last year a survey in Britain showed a high level of concern about the marketing of “cut price” surgery: “The proliferation of advertising for cosmetic surgery and its use in TV make-over programmes was felt to trivialise surgery and its risks, while making excessive claims of its impact on people’s emotional well-being” – Sir Bruce Keogh, summarising responses from the public in December 2012. For women undertaking surgery for cancer, the situation can be even more difficult. After all, cancer did not wait for you to choose a ‘new look’ or even to research the options. Cancer restructures you without permission! The fact is that women’s bodies, especially our breasts, are an emotive issue – not only for individuals but for society in general. The only people with a simple attitude to the female breast are breast-fed babies, for whom the breast is comfort and survival. For the rest of us, it’s complicated…. Controversy over dangers posed by silicone implants, whether sub-standard or not, continues to rattle around the blogosphere. On the one hand, a recently released research report found no scientific evidence that silicone gel is more than a nuisance factor, even if it leaks into local tissue and/or is transported away from the breast. Women, however, are unique individuals and complex, unexpected emotions can follow breast implantation including constant irritating awareness of the implants, anxiety, breast pain and difficulty sleeping (especially if you are a stomach or side sleeper). Symptoms such as pain must be taken seriously because it could be a low grade infection (see below). Saline (salt water) implants are an alternative to silicone, but they are prone to collapse and don’t feel like natural breast tissue, which makes them less popular with breast surgery patients. So what is a woman to do? Cosmetically, the results of early breast reconstruction can be excellent, which is a huge help in getting your confidence back after a cancer scare. And, the world is what it is. Not...

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Wearing a mastectomy bra and prosthesis

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A breast prosthesis is worn after mastectomy to restore your natural symmetrical body shape. Made from silicone, it has a softly rounded shape, and fits neatly into the hidden pocket of a specially designed bra. At your post-surgery consultation, ask your doctor when you can start wearing a prosthesis: generally, you should expect to wait for approximately six weeks after surgery. This allows healing of the operation site and swelling to go down, so that accurate measurements can be done, but recovery time varies for each individual and may take longer. Who needs to wear a mastectomy bra and prosthesis? As women begin to get their lives back following the drama of breast cancer and mastectomy, most prefer to wear the fashions and styles they enjoy, including feminine cuts with bust-lines.  A correctly fitted bra and prosthesis helps you to maintain a good self image and the self-confidence that comes from your favourite clothes. However, style is not the only benefit; your neck, shoulders and back are accustomed to symmetrical weight across the chest and mastectomy alters this balance. A correctly fitted prosthesis helps to maintain natural body alignment, preventing or relieving muscle tension and pain. Choosing and fitting a bra Choose a mastectomy bra and prosthesis that has been well manufactured from high quality materials. Stability is ensured by the hidden pocket into which the prosthesis fits – you want to be able to wear the bra without being constantly aware of it, so stable support is essential whether your cup size is large or small.  Broader shoulder straps and a generous cut of underarm fabric offer superior support, creating balance.  Ensure you are fitted with the correct size prosthesis (by weight) in order to balance the healthy breast and ensure good posture.  A professional fitter will consider your natural shape, lifestyle and needs when fitting you with a bra and prosthesis.  Bras are available in a variety of attractive styles and colours so there are plenty of options for creating the look you want. For Port Elizabeth and surrounding areas, Isabel Strydom offers an advisory and fitting service for breast prostheses and mastectomy bras, call her on 082 484 8358...

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