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For Chemo Patients, a Cold Cap Can Help Retain Hair
by Jane Meggitt
For many women – and some men – the most devastating part of chemotherapy isn’t the discomfort that may accompany the treatment, but the loss of hair. It’s that hair loss that really makes the fact you’ve been diagnosed with cancer hit home, and announces it to the world when you’re out and about. Of course, a good wig can hide the baldness resulting from chemo, but many people find them uncomfortable. Fortunately, there may an alternative. A cold cap worn before, during and post-chemotherapy sessions can keep hair from falling out.
How Cold Caps Work
Cold caps – also known as hypothermia caps - are filled with a gel frozen to minus 44 degrees Fahrenheit. When placed on the head, the caps constrict the scalp’s blood vessels. Not only is blood flow to the scalp reduced, but so is the amount of chemotherapy drug that reaches the hair follicles. This reduces the likelihood that hair will fall out, or reduces the severity of hair loss. People undergoing chemotherapy don’t lose hair instantly. It generally takes two to three weeks after the first treatment before hair starts falling out, and it then falls out rapidly.
Not Covered by Insurance
Currently, cold caps are not covered by insurance companies, although must insurance companies will pay for prosthetic wigs. Patients can rent or purchase cold caps, which do not require a physician’s prescription. Costs depend on the length of chemotherapy treatment. The greatest expense involves renting a large coolers using dry ice to keep the caps at the correct temperature. Home freezers do not have the capacity to store cool caps at the required temperatures. Some cancer treatment centers have special freezers for patients to store their caps. If you’re interested in using a cold cap, find out if the treatment center where you will have your infusions offers a freezer. Whether a cold cap is an option also depends on the type of chemotherapy drug used – some medications will result in hair loss whether or not a cold cap is used.
Cold caps are generally worn for an hour before the treatment session and then changed during the infusion to ensure the cold temperature is maintained. They are then worn for several hours after treatment. Wearing them is uncomfortable, and people complain about headaches, neck and shoulder aches and chills. If you do choose a cold cap, you must “baby” your hair until your chemo sessions are through. That means no dyeing, perms or the use of heat on your locks.
No matter whether your chose a cold cap or go the wig route, keep in mind that hair grow back. Eventually, your chemotherapy is over and your hair goes back to normal.
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!