In the midst of fighting cancer, it may seem almost trivial to worry about hair loss. But when certain chemotherapy medications actually increase the likelihood of irreversible hair loss, understanding options like scalp cooling becomes even more essential.
It’s distressing when the side effects of chemotherapy remain long after cancer has vanished. With the emergence of new therapies like scalp cooling, permanent alopecia from Taxotere might not be as indelible as it seems.
Why does Taxotere cause permanent hair loss?
Alopecia, a form of hair loss, occurs when hair follicles are attacked by an immune or drug response. Alopecia can be temporary, but when used in conjunction with powerful chemotherapy, it could be permanent.
Taxotere is a chemotherapy drug linked to permanent alopecia. Taxotere uses taxane-class chemotherapy to fight cancer, most often breast cancer. It’s prescribed to 75% of all women with breast cancer.
Like other taxane-class drugs, Taxotere attacks the microtubules inside cancer cells and prevents growth and reproduction. Because chemotherapy is not able to exclusively target cancer cells, all rapidly dividing cells are affected by this therapy.
Hair loss is common because hair cells are the second fastest growing cells in the human body, second only to cancer cells. Therefore, large amounts of Taxotere may be taken in by hair cells during the natural process of blood circulation through the body.
Once the hair follicles have been damaged severely, there is little chance of them returning. However, there are steps that can be taken during the process of chemotherapy to prevent alopecia.
What is scalp cooling?
Scalp cooling is a therapeutic procedure proven to help reduce hair loss with many different chemotherapy drugs. Scalp cooling has proven to be effective with taxane class drugs, including Taxotere.
Scalp cooling works when the temperature of the scalp is reduced by a helmet-like covering. The covering is filled with a cold gel or another cool substance and placed on the skull before, during, and immediately after chemotherapy.
The science behind scalp cooling is actually relatively simple and straightforward because cells can only reproduce as fast as their metabolism allows them to break down food into energy. Scalp cooling reduces the temperature of these cells, slowing down the cell’s metabolism and reducing the intake of Taxotere.
Taxotere is designed to be absorbed by rapidly-dividing cells. By slowing this process, scalp cooling presents a simple and practical solution to alopecia-related hair loss.
In the aftermath of the traumatic fight against cancer, something like permanent hair loss can be more than just a physical reminder. Permanent hair loss can become symbolic of suffering for both the survivor and their families.
People using Taxotere may have a chance to maintain their hair during chemotherapy, sparing them from the physical and emotional trauma of dealing with permanent alopecia. For more than one thousand survivors who completed chemotherapy and developed permanent alopecia, seeking compensation for irreversible hair loss seemed to be the best option.
Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash