Health

‘Capping’ the Hair Loss During Chemo

Novel treatment allows some cancer patients to retain their locks

Cancer patients wear different caps while going through treatment — but one in particular is getting a lot of attention.

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This one — called a cooling cap — helps prevent hair loss in those going through chemotherapy. The two-layered cap has a circulating refrigerated fluid on the inside and an insulating layer on the outside.

Patients wear them before, during, and after treatment to reduce blood flow to the scalp. For at least half the women involved in a landmark clinical trial, the caps worked.

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Researchers from the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center in Houston presented the results of their new study at a breast cancer symposium last week in San Antonio, Texas. About half the women who underwent treatment with the cap kept their hair. A comparison group, which did not have scalp cooling, suffered severe hair loss.

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The Orbis Paxman Hair Loss Prevention System and the Dignicap have both produced similar results. Sensors in the caps help maintain a scalp temperature of between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius, which researchers say is essential for success. An earlier version, available at select hospitals the last few years, had women using a device that was essentially an ice pack. But the temperature would get very uneven and produce patchy hair loss.

Related: How Depression Derails Cancer Outcomes

A change in appearance, such as hair loss, is one of the most common concerns people have about going through cancer treatment. One in 10 women would consider reducing chemotherapy or having a less effective treatment to avoid the issue, the Daily Mail reported.

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