PADUCAH — If you know someone who has battled cancer, you know the fight is a tough one.
More than 1.7 million new cancer patients are expected to be diagnosed this year. The normal treatment is chemotherapy, and it comes with side effects like hair loss.
Now, a new treatment is available in our region to reduce hair loss during chemotherapy — the cooling cap.
Mercy Health Phlebotomist Debbie Lynn was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in 2011 and underwent a Double Mastectomy, along with radiation and chemotherapy.
"The worst part of all of that was losing my hair, and I lost it about the second or third treatment," said Lynn.
Lynn is now cancer free with a full head of hair, but as she looks back on her journey, she said she wishes she could have used the cooling cap.
Mercy Health General Surgeon Daniel Howard specializes in breast cancer. He said their cold cap treatment reduces hair loss during chemotherapy.
"You put this extremely cold thing on your scalp, which then decreases the blood circulation to the hair follicles," said Howard. "When you decrease the blood to the hair follicles, the chemotherapy doesn't kill the hair follicles, and you get to keep your hair."
Mercy Health Registered Nurse Amy Anderson demonstrated the use of the cap, explaining its perks.
"In the past, people had to wrap their heads and then change them often," said Anderson. "And this will gradually cool, so the patient has full range of motion."
Both Baptist Health Paducah and Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital now offer the caps.
They said the caps will be a major help for people in maintaining their dignity during chemotherapy.
Baptist Health Paducah Executive Director of Oncology and Imaging Michael Tutor said it is great that they can offer that to patients during such a tough time in their lives.
"This, in addition to our lymphoma therapy and things like that, is very important for women, and it helps maintain a sense of normalcy," said Tutor.
Local cancer survivor Tracy Underhill shared a photo with a full head of hair on her last day of chemotherapy. She used the cap at a different hospital. She and others said the cooling cap gives hope.
Lynn said she hopes that anyone going through what she went through take the opportunity to use the cap.
"Oh, I definitely tell them to use it, just to let them know that you can save some part of you," she said.
Nurses at both hospitals will be trained on how to use the caps in the next few weeks. The cooling caps will be available for use afterward.
The Texas Roadhouse in Paducah has decided to pitch in for the cooling caps, to help patients with the cost. Owner Joelle Long runs the Stomp for a Cure event in Paducah.
The fundraiser will be held Nov. 21 at the Carson Center. It typically raises about $150,000 for local cancer patients.
"We want to give a little piece of mind," said Long. "This cold cap therapy won't be for the rich. It won't be for the poor, because we know that cancer doesn't care if you're rich or poor."
This year, Texas Roadhouse is introducing a golf tournament to raise more money in covering costs for the cooling caps.
Mercy Health said if you would like to support their Cold Cap Project, you can call the Mercy Health Foundation at 270-444-2387.