I had heard about these when I was in chemo – cooling caps to prevent hair loss. They were knew and being tested and not really available. Now new research shows that wearing a cooling cap seems to prevent hair loss for most patients during chemo for breast cancer. Sounds easy doesn't it? No pills, no real side effects. I could wear a hat during chemo easy, peasy.
I think (based on what I have heard and am not sure I remember all the details correctly) that patients wear a cooling cap during their chemo session and then keep it on for another 45 minutes or so. Small studies have shown that women who wear the cooling cap, lose less or very little hair than the women who don't wear a cooling cap.
Currently there is one cooling cap approved for use in the US and another under review by the FDA. Sounds cool, literally. The way they work is that they cool the scalp to around 37F and slow down the cell division process during chemo:
“Researchers don't know exactly how the cooling caps work. One theory is that cooling constricts the blood vessels in the scalp, slowing the circulation and thereby reducing the amount of toxins to which hair follicles are exposed.
Or it may be that cold slows the growth of hair follicles, making them less susceptible to damage from chemotherapy, which targets rapidly dividing cells.
Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, says it could be that “by slowing down those cells whatever mechanism it may be — either starving their blood flow or slowing them down straightforwardly — the net effect is beneficial, causing hair not to fall out.”"
But of course there is a small snag with this:
“While chilling the scalp may seem to carry few risks, Lichtenfeld says there is a theoretical risk that inhibiting the effect of chemotherapy in the scalp could allow metastases to take hold there.”
So hmmm…. Maybe not so much.
Okay, so I like the idea that you can go through chemo for breast cancer and not lose your hair. Losing your hair is so emotionally damaging. Believe me I hated losing my hair. There are no pictures of me bald – I made sure of that. I still don't think I have emotionally adapted to it still.
But if there is the potential that you could get mets to your head as a result? I am not sure I would be comfortable with that. I know people who have gotten mets in their skull so its not that out there. And they are so new that there is no long term research to show this.
So there is a downside. I would have to think about this seriously and look at more research before I would be comfortable with this.