Research

Cancer cold caps work about 50% of the time

Cancer cold caps work about 50% of the time”

She and her colleagues found 51% of those who had their scalp cooled retained their hair.

Tuesday's studies focused on women with breast cancer and whether using cooling caps can prevent hair loss.

But cooling caps haven't been extensively studied in the USA, and womens' experiences with the caps have been hit or miss. However, DigniCap, a kind of a cooling cap has recently received FDA approval and can be used in US during chemotherapy.

"These findings appear to represent a major step forward in improving the quality of life of individuals with cancer", says Dr. Dawn Hershman, who studies the effects of cancer treatments at the Columbia University School of Medicine in NY. The concluding two studies were published in the journal of American Medical Association.

"I think it's a very exciting tool, because hair loss is such a frightful manifestation of chemotherapy", said Dr. Harold Burstein, a breast cancer specialist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston. As of now, the cap's cost may not be reimbursed by health insurance and would almost cost between $1,500 to $3,000 per patient.

New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering announced on Monday that they now offer DigniCap to breast cancer patients. It was led by oncologist Julie Nangia of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

The US researchers investigated the effectiveness of one device - the DigniCap scalp cooling system manufactured by the Swedish public company Dignitana AB, which partly funded the research. Some women reported chills, headaches and nausea when using the device.

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The study involved 122 women with stage 1 or stage 2 breast cancer, all of whom received non-anthracycline adjuvant chemotherapy, which generally causes severe hair loss.

All the control group lost their hair.

The use of scalp-cooling caps, a novel technology, may help in preventing chemotherapy-induced hair loss for some cancer patients. That cooling system is not yet available commercially in the USA and is under review at the FDA. It can make a person feel vulnerable and they may worry about the reactions of others.

However, they said there had been no evidence of scalp metastases in any patient after around 30 months of follow up. Both caps are fitted once and worn for the duration of the each chemotherapy treatment session.

The devices work like refrigerators by sending fluid into a special helmet to cool the scalp before, during and after chemotherapy treatments. Less blood flow means less of the hair-destroying chemo reaches the follicles.

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.

"These techniques are relatively new", he says, and "breast cancer is a disease that can take a long time before it comes back and if one is to be 100 percent certain then you need a long period of time to answer the question". Further research is needed to assess longer-term efficacy and adverse effects.



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