Its often devastating to get the diagnosis of breast cancer. And for women undergoing chemotherapy losing their hair makes the ordeal much worse. But now scientists are hopeful they may have beaten the dreaded side effect of chemotherapy with the cold cap treatment. Its been used successfully in Europe for years, but after studies in the 1980s in this country, when it showed little, if any, benefit the treatment was discarded. Well, thanks to a several studies showing the caps positive effects, it looks like its time may have finally come.
An analysis of 53 studies from around the world conducted since 1995, suggests that the scalp cooling technique preserves the hair in about 70 percent of the patients whove used it. Although this seems like a no-brainer, a number of doctors are still concerned and dont 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 are also afraid that this treatment may lead to increases in metastases of the scalp in cancer patients. These concerns were expressed by doctors at some of this countrys leading cancer centers including Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the Universityof Miami School of Medicine. However, despite the doctors hesitations, not surprisingly, cold cap therapy is gaining interest among female cancer patients. Because of theirenthusiasm many cancer centers are taking a second look and in some cases, when a patient requests the treatment, doctors consider it. In fact, if a patient requests one the idea is supported by at hospitals such as the Weill Cornell Breast Center in New York. There are also new studies underway one at the University of California, San Francisco. There are a number of medical centers that now support 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 CityHAIR CARE There is also a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of scalp cooling and encouraging additional research called The Rapunzel Project. Below are their tips for hair care before, during, and after chemotherapy:
1. Use only cool water in shower 2. Wash hair no later than 3 days before and no sooner than 3 days after chemo 3. Use a gentle shampoo and dilute it4. Use a spray-on conditioner5. Drink as much water as possible during chemo day6. Keep hair straight down during chemo; do not bunch or pile on top of your head7. Dont pull on the roots8. Hold hair when combing so not to strain the roots9. Sleep on a satin pillow case10. Do not use curling irons, electric rollers, or hot air hair dryers11. Use adhesive-backed moleskin**, cut to the shape of the forehead, to protect skin when cold caps are on12. Have warm blankets, an electric blanket, or heating pads on hand to use, especially during and right after each cap change13. Sit in a chair without a high back otherwise working at the back of the head during cap changes is difficult14. Find out if you can have lab work done the day before chemo, because this shortens chemo day waiting time considerably15. Find out if you can call in and request to have your chemo order sent up from the pharmacy before you leave home the morning of chemo saving you up to an hour16. Be sure to change the hair part line with each session of chemo. It helps to protect the scalp.Robin Westen is ThirdAges medical reporter. Check for her daily updates. She is the author of Relationship Repair.See what others have to say about this story or leave a comment of your own.