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Breast cancer / 04 Oct, 2019

How cold caps gave Kerri control

Icon Writers

Icon Wesley patient Kerri Pinna shares her experience through chemotherapy

Kerri Pinna was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer on the 7th of March 2018. The days after Kerri’s diagnosis were filled with a series of appointments, consults and a mountain of information to take in.

“I was frozen when I was told, especially when it was metastatic. Your world just comes to a stop, you don’t know what to think. But I just wanted to get on and try and get through it,” Kerri said.

After a lumpectomy, her post-operation results found the margins weren’t clear and a PET-CT scan found a number of cancerous spots on her spine. She was then referred to Icon Wesley where she would start chemotherapy once a week.

During her chemotherapy treatment, Kerri was able to use the cold cap (otherwise known as scalp cooling). Cold caps aim to reduce hair loss during chemotherapy for certain cancers.

Many chemotherapy drugs work by targeting rapidly dividing cells in the body. Hair is one of these, and the chemotherapy drugs can cause hair loss by directly harming the hair follicles. This hair loss can be alleviated by using scalp cooling, or ‘cold caps’. The system works by reducing the temperature of the patient’s scalp by a few degrees immediately before, during and after the administration of chemotherapy. The cooling effect reduces the blood flow to hair follicles and can therefore minimise hair loss.

The innovative Paxman scalp cooling system can be used for patients with breast and other solid tumour cancers being treated with certain chemotherapy drugs such as docetaxel, cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin.

For Kerri, being able to use this technology allowed her to gain some control during her treatment.

“I have lots of thick way hair. For me, using the caps was definitely well worth it,” Kerri said.

During her chemotherapy treatment, Kerri’s husband organised a large fundraiser on the 29th of June 2018 to raise money for breast cancer. The event was a resounding success with more than 180 people in attendance.

“So many people, be it friends or colleagues, they all came out to support a wonderful cause. It was really overwhelming.”

Kerri and her husband decided to dedicate the $30 000 raised towards purchasing a second cold cap machine for Icon Wesley, helping other people with cancer to reduce hair loss and feel a little more normal during treatment.

“Because I was going through it and know how it feels, I wanted to help other people with breast cancer.”

An additional scalp cooling system means that Icon Wesley will be able to provide this service to between 20 and 40 people each week.

Of her chemotherapy treatment, Kerri feels she was very fortunate.

“I’ve been blessed with wonderful family and friends. Some people just really step up and surprise you. I was never alone when I was having chemo sessions – I always had a chemo buddy.”

Following her chemotherapy treatment, Kerri’s spots on her spine had reduced and she received a mastectomy of her right breast in August 2018.

Although she still needs monthly hormone injections, her last PET scan in December 2018 showed no evidence of cancer left in her body.

She wants other cancer patients to know how important it is to take the time to heal and know that it’s okay to feel vulnerable.

“It’s alright to cry. Be strong and most importantly remain positive. You’ll always have your bad days, accept help from others,” Kerri said.

Kerri says that since having cancer, she’s transformed how she treats her body.

“It makes you re-evaluate your lifestyle. My diets changed – I have more fruit and veg, exercise three times a week, and drink juices in the morning.”

She also credits exercising for getting her through difficult times during cancer treatment.

Unfortunately, in the same month that Kerri found out she was in remission, Kerri’s husband was sadly diagnosed with prostate cancer. Despite the new journey they now face together, Kerri remains strong.

“All the emotions flooded back but we soldiered on together. Sometimes you start to get a little ahead of yourself. But we take each situation as it comes, no matter what, we are in this together.”

Icon offers cooling cap technology across all day oncology sites. Effectiveness of the cooling cap system varies from patient to patient depending on type of treatment and cancer, and other factors such as prior chemotherapy regimes, age and ethnicity. Medical specialists will be able to determine if the system is suitable for each patient.

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