Cold cap may help women keep their hair during chemotherapy
There has been a recent upsurge in interest in a technique used by women undergoing chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer who report that it is helping many keep their hair. The “cold cap” treatment has been
used by women in Europe, but the initial studies in the U.S. in the 1980s showed little positive benefit and the idea was largely discarded; until now.
For many women with breast cancer, losing their hair as a result of the chemotherapy that often accompanies the surgery for the cancer can be equally as devastating as the other side effects of chemo: nausea,
weakness, fatigue. And it seems almost a case of adding insult to injury to be fighting a life-threatening illness by taking a medication that makes you feel even worse, and ravages your body, AND on top of it
all, causes you to lose all your hair.
An analysis of 53 studies (from around the world) has shown that since 1995, the research suggests that the scalp cooling technique preserves the hair in about 70 percent of the patients who’ve tried it. While
this seems like a really positive sign, a number of doctors are extremely concerned and don’t support using the technique without a lot of additional testing.
Among the concerns is the fact that no one is sure exactly HOW the technique works. One theory is that by cooling the scalp you cause vascular restriction in the blood vessels to the hair follicles which keeps
the chemotherapy from reaching the follicles and causing the hair loss. There are also concerns over potential effects caused by blocking the chemo drugs from reaching all areas of the body. Some doctors fear that
this treatment may lead to increases in metastases of the scalp in cancer patients. These concerns are espoused by doctors at some of the United State’s leading cancer centers: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer
Center in New York, University of Miami School of Medicine, Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, and others.
Yet, despite the concerns of many medical professionals ‘cold cap therapy’ has created a storm of interest among many women. As a result, many cancer centers are beginning to pay attention to the trend. In many
cases, such as at Weill Cornell Breast Center in New York, the subject is always introduced by the patient, but the doctors have seen no reason not to support the idea. In fact, Dr. Anne Moore of Weill Cornell
has plans to undertake a study using the cooling caps. There are also new studies being planned at the University of California, San Francisco.
There are a number of medical centers that now support the ‘Cold Cap Therapy’. These can be found at the following locations:
• Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan
• Minnesota Oncology in Minneapolis, Minnesota
• Minnesota Oncology in St. Paul, Minnesota
• University of California, San Francisco Medical Center in San Francisco, California
• New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City
There are two more centers coming soon in Minnesota and Washington. There is also a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of scalp cooling and encourage additional
research called The Rapunzel Project.