Cold Caps Could Prevent Hair Loss in Cancer Patients

Cancer treatments have many side effects, including hair loss.
Cancer treatments have many side effects, including hair loss.
Cancer treatments can take a toll on the body. One of the many side effects of chemotherapy is hair loss, but a new product might help people keep their hair during this treatment.

Cold caps could prevent hair loss

According to Fox News, a test group of 110 women are trying a cap that cools the scalp during chemotherapy. The cooling process slows blood flow and could prevent hair loss.

For cancer patients, hair loss tells the world that something is wrong.

“I didn’t necessarily want to walk around the grocery store answering questions about my cancer,” recalled Miriam Lipton, 45, of San Francisco. “If you look OK on the outside, it can help you feel, `OK, this is manageable, I can get through this.'”

Lipton was one of 20 women involved in a pilot test for DigniCap, a cap that keeps the scalp at about 40 degrees during chemotherapy. While Lipton’s hair did thin, she was able to hide it with a headband. She says the process isn’t perfect, she had headaches from the chilling temperatures, but she didn’t lose all of her hair as she had in previous bouts with breast cancer.

If the next round of clinical trials goes well, the cap’s makers plan to seek FDA approval. Variations of this cap are already used in Europe and Canada, but it’s not FDA-approved in the U.S. just yet.

Safety concerns

While some doctors see the cooling cap as a positive, others have medical concerns. Some doctors fear the near-freezing temperatures will prevent the chemotherapy from zapping cancer cells that linger around the scalp.

Clinical trial tests success of cold caps on cancer patients.
Clinical trial tests success of cold caps on cancer patients.

“Do they work and are they safe? Those are the two big holes. We just don’t know,” said American Cancer Society spokeswoman Kimberly Stump-Sutliff, an oncology nurse who said studies abroad haven’t settled those questions. “We need to know.”

Doctors hope the next round of trials will provide more answers.

“If it matters to our patients, it should matter to us,” Dr. Laura Esserman, a UCSF breast cancer specialist said. “It’s really not more complicated than that.”

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