The most common side effect of chemotherapy that a cancer patient has to endure is hair loss. But, now for all those people who fear hair loss while undergoing chemotherapy can be relieved by this recent advancement.
Cold cap therapy involves wearing ice-filled caps frozen between 15 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit before, during, and after a chemotherapy session. It is yet to be approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration but the treatment is showing promise with the initial clinical trials indicating high percentage of participants not losing their hair.
A renowned oncologist in the Manhattan, US says that he has come across dozens of patients using cold-cap with about 70 percent retaining their hair.
The cold-cap being so cold causes narrowing of the blood vessels beneath the skin of the scalp. This reduces the amount of chemotherapy medicine that reaches the hair follicles. When less chemotherapy medicine reaches the follicles, it is less likely that the hair will fall out.
During each chemotherapy session, you can wear these caps for:
- 20 to 50 minutes before
- after each chemotherapy session
The important part is that the amount of time you have to wear the cap after the chemotherapy session depends highly on the type of chemotherapy you are being given.
Following are the precautionary measures that women who use cold caps during chemotherapy are advised to follow:
- no blow drying, hot rollers, or straightening irons
- shampoo only every third day with cool water and a gentle shampoo
- no colouring until 3 months after chemotherapy is done
- gentle combing and brushing
There have been concerns in the medical community where some doctors have raised issues like the caps may prevent the chemotherapy medicine from reaching cancer cells that may be in the scalp. But there are studies which say otherwise.
In Europe, the cold-caps have been in use since 1970s and the studies have shown no increase in risk for skin metastasis.
In the U.S. there are several clinical trials going on at present to check the safety and efficacy of these caps. Currently, the DigniCap System is being studied in clinical trials in California, North Carolina, and New York and is only available to study participants. Similarly, the Paxman Scalp Cooling System is only available to clinical study participants in Houston, TX.