Plant power, an innovative gel and a way to protect your hair from chemo

Breast cancer research is a dynamic area.

From long-term goals, like a vaccine for breast cancer, to fine-tuned treatments and technologies that can improve your breast cancer experience, today. We explored a number of these at our latest webinar. You can watch the recording here.

Cold Caps

Scalp cooling, or “cold caps”, could make a new breast cancer experience possible – one where you get to keep your hair. The technology requires the patient to wear a cap prior, during and after their round of chemotherapy. The cap, which is connected to a cooling unit, lowers scalp temperature, reducing blood flow to the hair follicles so that hair loss can be minimised, or prevented completely.

Studies presented at ASCO, the world’s largest clinical cancer research meeting, indicated that the caps work best for patients following a taxane-based (e.g. Taxol, Taxotere) chemotherapy regime.

The technology is routinely available in the U.K., and a pilot study (funded by Breast Cancer Foundation NZ) is due to begin at Nelson Hospital later in the year. The results will be useful input for other DHBs that might be considering introducing scalp cooling.

Speaking Up

A recent study has revealed that advanced cancer patients who reported their symptoms via email to a clinical nurse, had a better survival rate than those who relied only on reporting to their doctor in person or by phone (and perhaps forgot to discuss or ran out of time to discuss).

Participants in the electronic reporting group lived five months longer, on average, than patients who did not use electronic reporting. It’s thought that the reporting allowed for red flags to be picked up early, before they could have knock-on effects.

While this scale of electronic reporting is not currently available in New Zealand, there are tools available to help patients keep track of their symptoms. BCFNZ’s mybc, a free online community for patients and supporters, is one of these. It allows members to track their symptoms online, email reports to medical staff and to video-call, message or phone our breast nurse for immediate advice. If you’re not already a member, you can join here.

Plant Power

A UK study has found plant-based ”Polybalm” to be very effective for the protection of nails against the effects of chemotherapy. Chemo can cause a condition called “onycholysis” where the fingernail or toenail loosens or separates entirely from the nail bed. This can cause pain, distress, disfigurement, infection and restricts the patient’s daily activities.

Polybalm is available online for US$62 per box plus $US5 postage.

Anti-Radiation Gel

Radiation treatment can cause a strong skin reaction, often referred to as “radiation burn”. This can be painful and long-lasting (sometimes up to a year). StrataXRT is an innovative gel that prevents this reaction happening in the first place, it also helps to protect from infection and was successfully piloted in Australia last year, as well as in Prague, Korea and Spain in the years prior.

The gelretails at $199.95NZD for one tube (although this should last you throughout your whole radiation) from The House of Aesthetics. You can get a 10% discount if you mention Breast Cancer Foundation NZ.

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trials are vital for the progression of research, and those drugs found to be effective end up on our shelves, hopefully Pharmac-funded, so that everyone can benefit from them. Perjeta, Pharmac-funded for metastatic HER2+ breast cancer in January this year, is a prime example.

It’s free to participate in clinical trials, but you need to meet strict eligibility criteria to be able to take part.

You can find out about current trials on our website, or contact us to receive clinical trial updates throughout the year.

For a more in-depth discussion about latest research in breast cancer, you can view the recording of our webinar here.

If you’d like to discuss your options, or if you’re worried, feel free to give one of our qualified breastnurses a call on 0800 BC NURSE (0800 2268 773)