Hair to Stay: A Resource to Help Eligible Patients Pay for Scalp Cooling

KATIE KOSKO
Thursday, March 09, 2017
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Hair to Stay: A Resource to Help Eligible Patients Pay for Scalp Cooling
The use of scalp cooling systems for chemotherapy-induced hair loss is growing, but cost can be an issue. For your patients who may need financial support to access scalp cooling, the nonprofit organization Hair to Stay offers need-based grants to offset the expense.

Breast cancer survivor Kristin Haynes provides a case-in-point, recalling her first thought after her breast cancer diagnosis: The open-endedness of it all is so alarming. “How is my life going to be impacted? How is my daughter’s life going to be impacted? Is this going to be something that takes my life the next go-around?” Haynes recalls wondering.

That was in August 2016. Now, nearly 6 months after her diagnosis, Haynes recently completed her chemotherapy treatment and will undergo surgery. Still, she feels she is in a strange place as she spends most of her days fatigued and trying to keep up with her 8-year-old.

One part of her life that didn’t feel so strange was her ability to keep her hair during her treatment with chemotherapy. Haynes was able to do so because of scalp cooling and the financial assistance that she received from Hair to Stay.

“This idea of having some control over something in this process, such as my hair, I think helped me feel like I had a little more control over my life in general,” she explained in a recent interview. “That helped me stay hopeful and healthy. It helped me to not perceive myself as sick or unable to do things I had been doing my entire life.”

Shortly before her chemotherapy began, Haynes was doing research online on how to keep her hair and stumbled upon HairToStay. After going through its application process, she received partial reimbursement from the organization for the cooling caps that she was renting from Penguin Cold Caps.

Women like Haynes from all over the country are getting help from HairToStay, which officially launched in April 2016. It has approved nearly 300 applications and to date has raised about $500,000.

Cooling caps have been established and used successfully in other countries, but are fairly new to the US. The caps work by narrowing the blood vessels beneath the skin of the scalp, reducing the amount of chemotherapy medicine that reaches the hair follicles.

The price of the cooling caps varies depending on the manufacturer, the number of chemotherapy sessions, and the number of months that the caps need to be used. But the average cost is $1500 to $3000 per patient and currently not covered by insurance.

Knowing the price, Patsy Graham, a breast cancer survivor who used cooling caps during her own treatment, and Bethany Hornthal cofounded HairToStay. Both women volunteer their time to fundraise for donations that offset the costs for patients who have been diagnosed with a solid tumor, are in chemotherapy, and have a household income that is up to 3 times the federal poverty level.

Hornthal noted that, “a number of our recipients say that, ‘without funding from HairToStay, I wouldn’t have been able to do scalp cooling, period’; those are the people we want to make sure we take care of.”

A recent study reported promising results with the use of scalp cooling in a randomized clinical trial, especially among women receiving taxane-based chemotherapy regimens. Haynes said she had 2 main reasons for giving cooling caps a try:

“At first, I had the awareness that there was so much of this one part of my life that was going to be public information, for anyone to access, as I am walking around living my life,” she says. “I didn’t love not having some say over who knew what about my health status. Also, I have a child. Things were changing for us, and I wanted to keep them as normal as possible.”
Click here for more information on how to donate or apply for funding assistance from HairToStay or call 800-270-1897.

Talk about this article with nurses and others in the oncology community in the General Discussions Oncology Nursing News discussion group.
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