DigniCap trial helps Carlisle’s Belinda Evans deal with cancer treatment


As a Curtin University researcher, Belinda Evans was interested in participating in the trial.
As a Curtin University researcher, Belinda Evans was interested in participating in the trial.

CARLISLE resident Belinda Evans was diagnosed with breast cancer late last year, but thanks to her participation in a research trial she says she never felt like a real cancer patient.

Ms Evans, a self-confessed “upbeat” forensic scientist with Curtin University, was diagnosed with breast cancer in October.

After mammograms, biopsies and ultrasounds, doctors confirmed she was living with oestrogen receptive breast cancer.

“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer I didn’t cry,” Ms Evans said.

“Although it wasn’t what I wanted to hear, it wasn’t until I received the MRI results that confirmed I would need a mastectomy that I became emotional.”

In November, medical oncologist and Vice-Chair of Breast Cancer Research Centre (BCRC) Arlene Chan recommended Ms Evans undergo chemotherapy to fight off the disease.

“Prof Chan wanted me to start chemotherapy before Christmas, but I didn’t want to go bald before then so I organised to commence treatment in January 2016,” Ms Evans said.

“Interestingly before I saw Professor Chan in January, a friend of mine had tagged me on Facebook about the DigniCap.

“It looked interesting but at the time I mistakenly thought it was only available in the US, so I didn’t give it too much more thought.”

DigniCap is a device that cools the scalp during chemotherapy, reduces blood flow and slows down normal hair follicle cell activity.

Dismissing it as unavailable to her, Ms Evans took control of her own hair loss and hosted a shaving party with her friends ahead of her treatment.

Despite having shaved her head, Professor Chan said there could still be a possibility she could retain some of her hair if she participated in the BCRC WA Chemotherapy Induced Alopecia (CIA) trial which used the DigniCap.

“By this point I had come to terms with the likelihood of losing my hair to chemo, so when Professor Chan explained I could enter the trial and potentially not lose my hair I was really excited,” Ms Evans said.

“As a research scientist I’m fond of research.

“The CIA researchers were also keen to investigate whether the DigniCap would work for me given I had just shaved my head.”

Ms Evans said she did not experience any hair loss for the first three weeks of chemotherapy, but after four weeks her hair was eight millimetres long and after nine weeks it was 27 millimetres long.

The treatment finished in March this year and Ms Evans said she found she had minimal hair loss overall.

“My hair is now quite thick and straight with a bit of a wave at the back,” Ms Evans said.

“Throughout my treatment I was never really afraid of the cancer and the prospect of it beating me.

“But I didn’t want to look like a cancer patient, so I’m very grateful to Professor Chan for granting me the opportunity to participate in the CIA trial.”