Cooling Cap Will Help Breast Cancer Patients Keep Their Hair

Cooling Cap Will Help Breast Cancer Patients Keep Their Hair
Image: Pixabay
December 9, 2015

Women undergoing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer may no longer have to worry about losing their hair.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week approved the first cooling cap that helps prevent hair loss that is connected to chemotherapy treatment.

Certain types of chemotherapy commonly associated with the treatment of breast cancer can cause hair to fall out entirely, gradually, in sections, or may become thin. While it is usually temporary, relieving these types of side effects can help a patient during their treatment process.

Deanna King, a patient who participated in clinical trials in late 2013, said in a CBS News interview that keeping her hair made her look healthier, which in turn made her feel healthier. It also gave her the confidence she needed to go on job interviews when she felt ready. King retained about 80 percent of her hair.

The cap slowly cools the scalp to just above freezing temperatures, which constricts blood vessels in the scalp reducing the amount of chemotherapy that reaches the cells in the hair roots. The cold also decreases the cell activity in the roots, reducing the effect of chemotherapy. The cap is worn during treatment and after chemotherapy levels in the body regulate.

The cap might be the first of its kind in the states, but using the cold to prevent hair loss isn't a new theory. In the past, patients have brought cold packs to treatment, switching them out as they got warmer.

The most common side effects of the cooling system include cold-induced headaches and neck and shoulder discomfort, chills, and pain associated with wearing the cooling cap for an extended period of time. The FDA says that chances of the chemotherapy missing isolated cancer cells in the scalp is extremely rare.

Dignitana would lease the cap to treatment centers with patients being charged a fee for each use. The costs are still being finalized, but an estimated total cost ranges from $1,500 to $3,000. The company is working with insurance companies in order to cover the cost.