When most people think of cancer and chemotherapy, they also think of hair loss. But patients using a scalp freezing treatment during chemotherapy have been breaking the relationship between chemo and hair loss, according to a recent article in The New York Times.
The scalp cooling therapy requires patients to use a frozen cap before, during and after a session of chemotherapy to prevent hair loss.
The cold is thought to slow down the metabolic activity of cells in hair follicles, reducing the effects of chemo on the hair. It is also thought that the caps are effective because they constrict the size of the blood vessels in the scalp, reducing the amount of chemotherapy that penetrates through, the article says.
In a clinical trial involving 120 patients who used a scalp-cooling cap, most of them kept their hair through chemotherapy, said Dr. Hope Rugo, the director of breast oncology at the University of California, San Francisco, who led the research. Rugo told the Times that at least one of the cold-cap products on the market, called the DigniCap, may soon be approved by the FDA.
But Dr. Jules Cohen, a clinical assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Stony Brook University Hospital, cautioned that the flip side of the data is that some women who have used the cold caps still lost their hair, which could be an even greater disappointment than it would be for women who expected to lose their hair in the first place.
Still, he said, “I think it's worth trying. If you don't do it you're going to lose your hair, if you do use it you might not lose your hair.”