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Chemotherapy is the use of chemicals or drugs (cytotoxic agents) to disrupt or stop the growth of cancer cells.

At The Holly Hospital, we use chemotherapy in a number of cases:

  • To try to cure cancer completely – this is known as curative chemotherapy
  • To try and control the spread of the disease if there is a chance that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body 
  • To help make other treatments more effective – for example, chemotherapy can be combined with radiotherapy (where radiation is used to kill cancerous cells), or it can be used before surgery
  • To reduce the risk of the cancer returning after radiotherapy or surgery
  • To relieve symptoms – a cure may not be possible for advanced cancer, but chemotherapy may be used to relieve the symptoms and slow it down; this is known as palliative chemotherapy.

Find out more about Cancer Care at The Holly Hospital

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy medicine is usually given by using a drip (intravenous infusion) into the bloodstream through a vein or via an injection into the bloodstream. However, we can also administer chemotherapy tablets or capsules.

Our chemotherapy suite is fitted with state-of-the-art equipment needed to deliver complex cancer treatment in comfortable and relaxed surroundings.

Patients having private chemotherapy can choose to have treatment in their own private bedroom or in our chemotherapy suite with other patients. Many people enjoy the social aspect of having treatment with others in a similar situation.

Hair loss during chemotherapy and scalp cooling

Some chemotherapy drugs can cause temporary hair loss or thinning. This does not happen to everyone. If you lose hair, it usually starts to grow back soon after you have finished your treatment. For some people, hair loss or thinning is not as bad as they expected. For others, losing their hair is one of the most distressing side effects of cancer treatment.

At The Holly, we can offer some chemotherapy patients scalp cooling. This is a possible way to reduce or prevent hair loss during chemotherapy. The treatment lowers the temperature of the skin on your head by a few degrees and reduces blood flow to the scalp. In turn, this reduces the amount of chemotherapy drug that reaches the hair follicles and makes them less likely to fall out.

We have the latest technology for scalp cooling at The Holly. You sit in a comfortable reclining chair in our chemotherapy suite and a special cap is fitted on your head. A nurse connects this cap to the Paxman Scalp Cooling System, which is a small refrigeration unit. The machine pumps cool liquid through the cap before, during and after your chemotherapy session. Our specialist nurses try to help you feel as relaxed as possible.

It is important to have realistic expectations about scalp cooling. According to Paxman who make the scalp cooling technology, there is an average 50% chance of keeping 50% or more of your hair. You cannot predict how well scalp cooling will work for you until you try it.

If you are interested in having scalp cooling, your cancer consultant or nurse can explain whether this is suitable for you. They can also talk to you about other options, such as having a wig fitted or using different types of headwear.

For more information, please talk to your nurse.

Find out more about Chemotherapy
The Holly Hospital

High Road, Buckhurst Hill, Essex, IG9 5HX

020 8505 3311

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