Cancer Council Victoria’s Free Wig Service

Cancer Council Victoria operates a nurse-led wig service to provide free wigs to people experiencing cancer related hair-loss. The service operates from the Cancer Council Victoria building in St Kilda Road, Melbourne, and has provided over 850 wigs to Victorians since it opened in November 2012.

A formal evaluation of the Wig Service was recently conducted, including a retrospective audit of nursing notes (Phase I) and semi-structured interviews (Phase II) with a number of clients who had accessed the service. Results showed that Wig Service clients discussed a wide range of topics with the nurses conducting the appointment. The majority of clients discussed aspects of their treatment and many also discussed topics related to psychological and emotional support. This highlighted that the Wig Service acts as a gateway to the broader suite of support programs offered by Cancer Council Victoria, with many clients receiving referrals to other programs and services. Read the full report here.

Wig Service clients gave a range of reasons for wanting to obtain a wig, the most common of which were: not wanting other people to know they are sick; and not wanting to distress other people such as their children, their parents or their partners. The cost of buying a wig was nominated by many clients as reason for using the free Cancer Council Victoria Wig Service in particular.

Wig Service clients reported high levels of satisfaction with the service, the nurses who conducted the appointments and most Wig Service clients reported using the wigs they received frequently and for long periods. Some Wig Service clients from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds reported difficulties finding appropriate wigs and since the evaluation was completed, steps have been taken to increase the range of wigs offered.

The Wig Service reaches a broad cross section of Victorian women affected by cancer. Despite operating from a single site in inner Melbourne, 9.5% of clients travelled from rural and regional areas, some several hours drive from Melbourne. It was there for identified that there was a gap in service for regional Victorians. Following the evaluation, Cancer Council Victoria has introduced a Regional Wig Service based on a model successfully implemented by Cancer Council Western Australia. This service can be accessed by emailing an application form, and a current photo of the patient, so that an appropriate wig can then be mailed out to people living over 50km from Melbourne. Clients who access the service will also receive care instructions and information on other support they may wish to access.

The evaluation demonstrated the value of Cancer Council Victoria’s free nurse-led Wig Service to Victorians experiencing cancer related hair-loss. The service helps to reduce the psychological impact of cancer-related hair-loss and it is particularly important for those experiencing financial disadvantaged or changes in their ability to work as a result of their cancer treatment.

I was so overwhelmed by how kind everybody was. The nurse was superb. I got more information from her about the whole process than just about anyone else I’ve spoken to. She really took a lot of time to guide me through my side effects, lots more than just the wig, lots of information and ideas about what to do on this journey. I’d had an appointment the day before with the radiation oncologist who had been pretty brutal and had left me reeling a little bit from that appointment. I was able to discuss that with her and she really put me at ease and put me back on track”.
– Wig Service User


Submitted by: Katherine Lane, Nurse Manager, Cancer Council Victoria