This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation is pleased to welcome Bethany Hornthal, the Co-Founder of HairToStay, as a guest author on our Grantee Blog. HairToStay is the only national non-profit organization helping cancer patients afford scalp cooling treatments. Below, Hornthal discusses the vital support that scalp cooling provides to cancer patients throughout their diagnosis and treatment.
Courtesy of Bethany Hornthal, Co-Founder, HairToStay
Some people think that worrying about hair loss should be a cancer patient’s last concern. In reality, chemo-induced hair loss is considered to be one of cancer’s most devastating side effects. Many patients feel anxious, depressed, or self-conscious about losing their hair, particularly women.
Studies have shown that up to 8% of female patients will actually turn down chemotherapy treatment due to the fear of hair loss. This is so much more than a question of vanity. Keeping hair during treatment can help patients maintain a sense of identity, privacy, normalcy, and a sense of wellbeing.
At HairToStay we help raise awareness and offer subsidies to support low-income cancer patients who want the option of using scalp cooling treatments that can dramatically reduce the amount of hair loss caused by chemotherapy.
Until recently, there was no way to avoid hair loss from a significant number of chemotherapy regimens. Thankfully, scalp cooling changed that. By cooling the scalp during treatment, the amount of chemotherapy medication that enters the hair follicle is limited. This reduces the amount of damage caused to the follicles, and limits the overall amount of hair loss. It was first cleared for use by the FDA in 2015 for all solid tumor cancers.
At the time of the FDA’s approval of scalp cooling in 2015, no insurance coverage was available for the treatment, making it unaffordable to many. This is why in 2016, we founded HairToStay. I am proud to say that we have never said “no” to an eligible patient since.
97% of the individuals we support are women going through breast, ovarian, uterine, or cervical cancer diagnoses. Many of the women we help are low-income young mothers, and over half have children at home.
Looking in the mirror and seeing yourself, not a cancer patient, is so important, especially for mothers of young children who are trying to consider their families’ reaction to treatment as much as their own. We often hear our clients say, “being able to see myself in the mirror gave me a sense of normalcy in a time where my world was flipped upside down.”
The average age of a recipient is 50, however, we are seeing this trend downward. In the past year, 28% of our recipients were 40 and under.
This year we are seeing close to a 25% increase in demand for our support. We expect to subsidize at least 1,200 patients in 2023, so we are very busy ensuring that we can continue to never say “no” to an eligible patient.
Our goal is to level the playing field so that access to scalp cooling and the ability to avoid hair loss during chemotherapy is available to all. We will never stop working to help patients keep hair and hope.
More about HairToStay
HairToStay is the first and only national non-profit organization dedicated to helping low-income cancer patients afford scalp cooling treatment. Alongside treatment subsidization, we raise awareness, offer information, and support patients considering the use of scalp cooling to keep their hair during chemotherapy. To date, HairToStay has awarded more than 5,000 subsidies of $1,000 – $1,500 to patients in all 50 states.
Learn more about HairToStay by visiting www.hairtostay.org.