For many people diagnosed with cancer, hair loss is chemotherapy’s most dreaded side effect.

But Oaksey businesswoman Andrea Moffat, who was determined work through her treatment for breast cancer, decided to try a pioneering scalp cooling therapy in a bid to save her locks.

“I was told by my breast cancer nurse that without scalp cooling I would lose my hair,” she explained.

“I run my own company and spend a lot of time delivering training programmes and public speaking, so I had to consider how I would feel doing this with no hair.

“To be honest, I had the courage to face this prospect if I had to. I could wear a wig, learn how to tie scarves and like many women, face the world bald and proud, but as scalp cooling was available, it was worth a go.”

Andrea, 60, has her first inkling something was wrong when she arrived home from a business trip in Oman in April last year.

“Among all the post was a letter giving me a call-back from a breast screening, with an appointment the very next day,” she recalled. “I had no time to organise a friend to go with, or anything. I aimed to be rational, thinking I should just check this out.

“I had more mammograms and an ultrasound scan. There was a moment I knew, because the doctor stopped all her busy-ness and looked at me straight and squarely, and said, ‘there is something nasty I do not like the look of at all.’ She said is very calmly and caringly, but very direct. I’m glad she did it that way.”

Andrea was seen by a surgeon ten days later, and took a friend with her for the appointment at the Cheltenham General Hospital.

“I got the confirmation. It was devastating news,” she said. “This was going to mean chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and I am thinking, I have to work all through this? How can I do this? It was a real shock.

“I asked if there was an option to do nothing, but the cancer had the HER2 marker. It was very aggressive and invasive. Thank god for routine mammograms.”

She had a lumpectomy in June, and after a month to recover, chemotherapy was due to begin.

“The NHS put me in touch with MacMillan. They are fantastic, and in all the leaflets I found this reference to the Paxman cooling system,” Andrea explained.

The process involved wearing a tight-fitting helmet, which has a cooling liquid flowing through it.

“It’s very tight, plastic and rubbery, and they hook you up to a refrigeration machine. It chills and cools the hair follicles, so the chemotherapy drugs do not have the same effect on them,” she said.

Andrea admitted it was not a pleasant experience.

“It’s awful! It’s freezing cold – even your eyeballs feel cold, and it gives you the fiercest headache. I wore it half an hour before treatment, throughout and for two hours after. You have to be made of strong stuff!

“Some decided to try it and couldn’t stand it. It’s a very personal choice.”

For Andrea though, the temporary discomfort was worth it.

“At every cycle, the nursing staff and clinical oncologist have been amazed at the positive result I’ve had with the scalp cooling.

“Yes, I’ve lost hair. It’s gone progressively a bit thinner on top and the parting is difficult to find but it’s really only my family and close friends that can tell.

“Amazingly, I have worked throughout the treatment and my work colleagues and programme participants simply wouldn’t have guessed!”

Andrea, who grew up Yorkshire, set up her set up her own management training business the Learning Interventions Programme in 1995. She kept working all through her treatment, which included six three-weekly cycles of chemo and a month of radiotherapy, every day, five days a week.

On one occasion Andrea ran a training course the very day after a chemo treatment.

“I worked through the whole thing. I changed how I work, but I managed it. Keeping my hair gave me a sense of some control. Paxman isn’t offered to all patients, but I would recommend anyone to seriously consider it,” Andrea said.

“My friends were really there for me. Do call on your family and friends and let them help you. They want to help and often do not know how. So let them do things for you,” she said.

Andrea’s treatment only ended recently, at the end of January. She will have to continue taking medication for five years, and a Herceptin injection every three weeks for a year.

Andrea has lots of exciting plans for 2018 – including a climb of Mount Kilimanjaro for charity in September.

“It is still hanging over me, but I responded well to the treatment. I was born a glass half-full type of person, and I have generally been lucky in life.

“It happened. I can’t control what happens next but I’m taking the best advice and getting on with life. I’ve been ski-ing for two weeks, at Lake Tahoe in Nevada and had some fun. I am working intensively again and loving it and putting in time for relaxation and enjoyment.”

Paxman, the company that designed the cooling cap, say hair loss is consistently ranked one of the most feared and common side effect of chemotherapy treatment and that often people will refuse treatment because they don’t want to lose their hair.

The cold cap works by reducing the temperature of the scalp by a few degrees immediately before, during and after the administration of chemotherapy.

Andrea said: “My conclusion about the Paxman journey is, it’s a rough ride and isn’t for everyone but the nursing staff are really considerate, knowledgeable, careful and for me, the results speak for themselves.

“If you’re facing this journey then, try it. You can always withdraw if it’s not for you or does not work for you, but I hope it does.”

The Paxman Scalp Cooling System is the world-leading hair loss prevention system for chemotherapy patients. It has been used by over 100,000 patients, in 32 countries and is responsible for helping patients to keep their hair and retain a feeling of normality during chemotherapy. The cap moulds to all head shapes and sizes, and liquid coolant passes through, extracting heat from the patient’s scalp, ensuring an even, constant temperature is maintained to minimise hair loss.