Losing hair is one of the most noticeable and upsetting side effect for cancer patients going through chemotherapy. But a new process, called cold cap therapy, is helping more of these patients keep their hair.
"Most of the side effects from chemo, now we have a lot of medication that can help alleviate most of the side effects, but hair loss is one of the most dreadful side effects of chemotherapy that there is no medication that can help prevent that," says Dr. Saranya Chumsri, a medical oncologist at Mayo Clinic.
But Dr. Chumsri says things recently changed with the development of cold cap therapy.
"Cold cap [works by constricting blood vessels], and it [helps] limit how much chemotherapy flows to the hair follicle," Dr. Chumsri says. "And it help[s] prevent hair loss during the chemotherapy treatment."
Dr. Chumsri says the patient puts the cold cap on about 30 minutes to an hour before chemotherapy begins and is cooled down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The patient keeps it on through the chemotherapy treatment and another few hours after it's finished, depending on the chemotherapy regimen.
Dr. Chumsri says studies have shown as many as two-thirds of patients who tried cold cap therapy were able to retain at least 50 percent of their hair.
"Being able to retain hair during the chemotherapy, they can go on with their normal life and [are] able to have better quality of life, better self-image during the treatment," Dr. Chumsri says.