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Can Scalp Cooling Help Save the Hair of Chemotherapy Patients?
by April Maguire
Fighting cancer is one of the hardest battles anyone can experience. As if the pain and trauma of the disease weren’t bad enough, often side effects of treatment can be even worse, and for some people one of the most traumatic byproducts of chemotherapy is hair loss. Fortunately, a new technology has emerged in recent years that could help chemotherapy patients retain their hair.
Importance of Maintaining Hair
Balanced against the seriousness of cancer, it might seem like the loss of one’s hair would be trivial. But for most cancer patients, the loss of hair isn’t just a matter of vanity. According to experts, hair loss compounds an already traumatic situation, as it can alter a patient’s self-esteem and dramatically affect how his or her loved ones interact with the individual. Moreover, hair loss is a visual signifier of the disease, which can draw unwanted attention and add additional stress.
How Does Scalp Cooling Work?
Chemotherapy fights cancer by attacking cells that divide and grow quickly. Unfortunately, chemotherapy drugs aren’t able to distinguish between dangerous cancer cells and hair cells that naturally undergo rapid division and growth.
Scalp cooling works to counteract the effects of chemotherapy by constricting the blood vessels around the head and reducing the amount of the drug that reaches the hair follicles. Before undergoing chemotherapy treatment, a cap is placed on the patient’s head, and cooling gel is circulated through the cap to dramatically lower the temperature around the skull. This cap is worn for the duration of the treatment as well as a few hours afterward.
Although patients claim that the intense cold of scalp cooling can be painful, for some the effects justify the discomfort. According to recent studies, scalp cooling technology has been shown to prevent hair loss for 70% to 80% of cancer patients.
Unfortunately, the efficacy of scalp cooling is still far from decided. Despite the positive study results, a number of doctors claim that they’ve seen no firsthand instances of scalp cooling preserving a patient’s hair. Moreover, some doctors are even concerned that the practice of scalp cooling could be dangerous, as the cooling agent reduces the effectiveness of chemotherapy and could provide a safe haven for cancer cells to hide out in the patient’s scalp.
Although the effectiveness of scalp cooling is still up for debate, the patients who have had their hair saved by the technology swear by it. And as the practice of scalp cooling becomes more widespread, doctors will have a much better understanding of exactly how this new technology can help cancer patients keep their hair.
If you or someone you know would like more information about hair loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!