Scalp Cooling: A qualitative study to assess the perceptions and experiences of Australian health professionals working in breast cancer (#51)
Background. Chemotherapy-induced hair loss is a common and distressing side effect for patients. Scalp cooling to reduce this hair loss has been available in Europe for more than a decade, but only recently introduced in Australia. Introduction in Australia has primarily been driven by consumer demand, however little is known about health professionals’ perceptions of the technology. The aim of this study was to qualitatively explore health professionals’ knowledge of and attitudes to scalp cooling to identify barriers and facilitators to the implementation of scalp cooling in Australian cancer centres.
Methods: Telephone interviews were conducted with 21 health professionals (oncologists, surgeons, nurses, clinical service administrators/managers) currently working in a tumour stream where chemotherapy induced alopecia is a side effect of treatment. Participants were recruited from four centres in Australia where scalp cooling is currently available and one centre without access to the technology.
Results: Hair loss was considered an important side effect worthy of intervention. Exploration of health professionals’ knowledge and perceptions of scalp cooling highlighted three main themes: (1) need for empirically derived information to address current scalp cooling knowledge-gaps (2) influence of experience on health professional views (3) barriers and enablers to scalp cooling implementation. Health professionals highlighted a need for further empirical data to assist oncologists with patient selection for scalp cooling. Previous scalp cooling experiences influence health professional attitudes to scalp cooling. Integration of the technology requires adjustments to nursing practice to manage the increased time, workload and change in patient flow.
Conclusions: This study provides the first in-depth exploration of Australian health professionals’ attitudes to scalp cooling. The results highlighted health professional attitudes drive the introduction of scalp cooling but strategies to manage the change in nursing practice are essential for successful implementation into routine care.