The secret your oncologist probably won't tell you
Oncologist are more interested in treating the cancer than worrying about the patients fears of hair loss following chemo. And quite rightly so...they have a critical job to perform and to them it’s solely about reducing or eradicating the cancer cells. But what they often fail to appreciate is the impact loss of hair has on the patient’s mental state-of-mind or even their willingness to undergo the appropriate chemo treatment in the first place.
Scalp cooling has been around for some time now, and can dramatically reduce the effects of chemotherapy drugs on hair follicles, which means you get to keep more of your hair. It’s a non-invasive process whereby the head is kept cool using a specially designed gel-filled cap before, during and immediately after chemotherapy drugs have been administered.
How does it work?
Every hair on the body grows out of a hair follicle. Small blood-vessels in the scalp supply the cells of the follicles with food and oxygen, and carry away waste products. Any chemotherapy drugs in the bloodstream will also be carried to the hair follicles and absorbed into the hair, which is why it falls out.
When the hair follicles within the scalp are cooled, they are put into a hibernated state, reducing the up-take of the chemotherapy drug regimens, during and for a period of time after chemotherapy.
Cold cap therapy is a Crylon gel-filled soft cap which is fitted snugly to your head. The Crylon gel contains tiny glass beads which remain soft and pliable when frozen. This means that the cap gently moulds to the shape of your head to ensure it is pressing against every part of the scalp to evenly cool it.
Does it really work?
Cold cap therapy doesn’t work with all chemotherapy drugs so it’s important to check this out first.
Most people that undergo chemotherapy using the caps will experience some hair shedding, but the vast majority of people are left with a significant amount of hair after treatment. Feedback from cap users report that they have worked so well that friends, family and work colleagues were unaware that they’d even undergone chemotherapy.
To read first-hand from people that have used the cold cap system click here
There are a number of cold cap providers on the market and it’s important to get the right one for you.
The things to ask:
- Does the cap give an even distribution of hairloss? It’s very important the every part of your scalp is cooled or you will be left with a patchy effect. Make sure your cold cap fits properly.
- Are the caps portable? Cold caps should be worn up to 4 hours following chemo because the drugs are still coursing through your system. You may not want to spend all of that time sitting in the clinic.
- Are the caps easy to use? Make sure your provider is able to give you the training that you, your partner, a family member or friend needs to fit them properly. It’s very important the caps are changed quickly during your chemo session so the scalp stays cold enough to restrict the blood supply to the hair follicle. You will need someone who’s been shown how to do this for you.