Revolutionary cold caps to help prevent chemotherapy-related hair loss

October 31st, 2010
Revolutionary cold caps to help prevent chemotherapy-related hair loss

Cancer is one of the main traumatising life experiences anyone has to go through, and whilst chemotherapy can potentially be a positive, unfortunately its negative side effects such as loss of hair can also feel like a loss of dignity.  However a fresh device may assist in preserving both a woman’s dignity as well as crowning glory.

Known as the ‘cold cap’, this innovative tool bases itself on the belief that by chilling the scalp the headwear can assist in the prevention of hair loss through chemotherapy sessions.  Having found popularity in Europe already, cold caps are now in operation in the U.S. with further plans to reach the Canadian audience.

Cancer survivor, Minnesota-based Shirley Billigmeier, first experimented with the cap when treated with chemotherapy for breast cancer.  Although she underwent six sessions of chemotherapy, Shirley still managed to retain her locks.

“My hair is all there.  It definitely works,” she says.

Invented by a corporation in the United Kingdom, the Penguin Cold Cap contains a solution comparable to that of cold packs for the treatment of knee injuries, which is then affixed to the head by fabric hook-and-loop fasteners.

By slowing down the circulation of blood to the follicles, the cap will then slow down the surge of the chemicals used in chemotherapy responsible for destroying young follicle cells.

The developers of the cap have said that whilst the headwear permits most of the hair follicles to resist the chemotherapy medications, thinning can still occur.

Although experimented with a not long ago, the cooling therapy was abandoned as it was chaotic – but a recent design has since rekindled the concept.

As part of the chemotherapy treatment, patients are required to wear the cold cap for 30 minutes then remove it for a second cap – alternating between the headwear for seven hours.

Studies conducted in Europe have advised that the cold caps have worked for around 87 per cent of patients, dependant on the types of chemotherapy medications used; other studies have suggested that scalp cooling “is effective but not for all chemotherapy patients.”

The cold caps have created a ripple among the cancer specialist community, with many worrying that the headwear would obstruct the chemotherapy’s effect on the scalp, leaving it exposed to the possibility of cancer – though research is currently being undertaken at Laval University in Quebec.

Whilst this theory has not been scientifically proven, women are still experimenting this procedure at $1,500 a go.

“It gives you an overall sense of control that you can do something with this disease that can be out of control,” says cancer patient Ditah Rimar.  “This is something you can do.  It’s part of the fight.”

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