Breast Cancer Treatment: How to Keep Your Hair During Chemotherapy - Freeze Your Scalp

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Mar 11, 2015 09:34 AM EDT

Apparently, there is a way for patients to keep their hair while undergoing chemotherapy. According to the New York Times, there is a product that is popular in Europe which freezes the scalp so cancer patients going through therapy can keep their locks.  

The product is called the Penguin Cold Cap. The cap must be worn tightly on the head before, during, and a couple hours after a chemotherapy session in order to work.  

According to New York Times, Jane Cohn, a cancer patient, used the cap during her first chemotherapy session last fall. Cohn describes the cap saying, "For the first few minutes, it's painful...It's very cold for two minutes, but I'm sitting under a warm blanket. I don't even think about the chemo and I don't worry about my hair. It has helped with my stress, because I know my hair is going to be there."  

There is another product available for the same treatment called DigniCap. The New York Times says the DigniCap uses a small machine and tubes filled with a coolant to freeze the head.  

Mr. Cody Boyd, from the UT Health Northeast Cancer Treatment and Prevention Center, explains on KLTV how the cold cap works.

"If we can put a cold source around the scalp of a patient then we can reduce the amount of blood to the hair follicles. By reducing the size of the blood vessels theoretically the chemotherapy agents would have a harder time getting to the hair follicles. Thus, less drugs being introduced to the hair and less hair would be damaged."  

According to the New York Times, cold cap treatment costs around $2,000, but the price may vary depending on the amount of time a patient will go through chemotherapy and the type of cap used.  

Dr. Hope Rugo, director of breast oncology at the University of California in San Francisco, said that the DigniCap might be approved by the Food and Drug Administration soon. If it does get approved, patients could receive an insurance reimbursement for using the cap.  

Overall the cool-cap seems like a good idea, but Mr. Boyd states that it will not work for all forms of chemotherapy, reports KLTV. Dr. Tessa Cigler, an oncologist at Weill Cornell, is conducting research on the cold-caps and agrees with Mr. Boyd, states the New York Times. She adds that the cold caps may only be useful to cancer patients with solid tumors; such as breast cancer.  

Dr. Cigler does note the following: "Cold cap therapy is really empowering to many patients. It has allowed many patients to protect their privacy, and allows women to maintain their self-esteem and their sense of well-being during a really difficult time." 

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