Donna Kim-Brand

National Public Radio (NPR) had a feature recently on an approach to minimizing hair loss during chemotherapy that has been available in Europe for over 20 years but is still relatively rare in the United States. It is Cold Cap Therapy, which has been successful for over 80% of users and would be opted for again as a treatment by 96% of cancer patients who have used Cold Caps during chemo.

This treatment is non-invasive, drug-free, and a relatively easy and efficient way to preserve your hair, and perhaps your sense of dignity, during chemotherapy. Of course, there are no guarantees but the results look good and make this approach worthy of exploring.

Cold Cap Therapy is a scalp cooling method using a freezing cold helmet-like cap, or series of caps, fitted tightly on your head before, during and after intravenous chemo infusion. This constricts blood vessels in the scalp, which limits the amount of toxic chemicals that reach the hair follicles until they are in a more diluted state, thus reducing damage which would normally lead to hair loss.

Why losing hair normally occurs during chemo is because the drugs used to kill fast-growing cancer cells also attack other fast growing cells in your body. Among those are hair, sperm and intestinal villi. This is what can lead to the undesirable side effects of hair loss, sterility and nausea.

Cold caps are now available for use at select U.S. medical facilities or for rent (approximately $3000 per treatment in a facility or $600 per treatment to rent caps plus ancillary costs of bio-medical freezers, dry ice, accessories and helpers).

Earlier systems such as Penguin Cold Caps and newer models like Chemo Cold Caps require the user to wear the snugly fitting caps until the temperature drops below optimal, then swiftly changing over to a new icy cold cap to maintain a cold head. Other methods available use a single cap through which icy cold liquid is pumped throughout chemo. In either case you keep the Cold Cap on as long as needed for the duration of treatment and for 2 or more hours afterward.  This allows time for your liver to flush the bulk of the chemicals out of your system. Of course, as with any treatment, variations occur depending on type and dosage of chemicals, age and overall health of the patient and their tolerance for cold.

One female cancer patient interviewed in the NPR segment explained that while Cold Cap therapy is a relatively easy method to use, and worth it to her to maintain her sense of self during the indignity of battling cancer, the cold is no fun to endure. She would wrap in an electric blanket to keep the rest of her body warm.

Read our next week’s blog post to get specific tips when opting for the Cold Cap Therapy.

Be Sociable, Share!