Naramata breast cancer patient touts ‘cold cap machine’ for preventing hair loss

Tammi Foster is a busy mother of four hailing from Naramata, but her world was turned upside down two years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I chose to get a full mastectomy done,” she said during an interview at her home on Tuesday.

Foster’s biggest concern was to maintain a sense of normalcy through 12 weeks of chemotherapy. “I want to walk around and be strong for my girls,” she said.

In an attempt to prevent hair loss she researched her options and found a machine that reduces the temperature of the scalp before, during and after treatment to minimize hair loss.

Penticton Regional Hospital allowed Foster to bring the device with her to use during treatment and her lush, beautiful blonde locks remained intact.

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“There is a real mental journey when you’ve been diagnosed with cancer… and the one thing this enabled me to do was it let me walk out of the house and go to the grocery store and forget about cancer,” Foster said.

The mother of four rented the cold cap machine through a Canadian distributor of the U.K. based company.

It’s approved by Health Canada but isn’t covered through health insurance, so Foster paid thousands of dollars out of pocket to rent it.

“I really wish that the machines were available to every single cancer patient just for their mental health,” Foster said.

A statement the Provincial Health Services Authority said cold cap machines are not available through the public system.

“BC Cancer Agency appreciates that hair loss during chemotherapy may be a significant source of distress for many patients. Unfortunately, there is still not enough evidence to date to support the use of cold caps as a standard of care,” said spokesperson Amy Robertson.

Foster hopes that sharing her story will help other breast cancer survivors.

“It can be such a private journey, I decided not to make it private because I want to make people aware that you can be ok and have cancer.”

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