Breast cancer, or any kind of cancer for that matter, is scary and stressful, and it doesn’t help that the treatment can cause hair loss. Then, not only must you brave the disease, but also the beacon that your bald head becomes, proclaiming to everyone that you have cancer. Recent experiments though show that a hat could stop or slow hair loss due to chemotherapy.
When you go through chemotherapy, its intent is to attack the rapidly dividing cancer cells. Unfortunately, the drugs can’t always tell which rapidly-dividing cells are harmless. Because your hair follicles divide quickly too, they often get attacked by the drugs. These effects vary depending on the type of chemotherapy drugs you’re using, the regimen you’re on, and of course, the rate at which your hair follicle cells divide. That’s why some people do not experience hair loss, while others experience it temporarily or even permanently. Researchers at Laval University in Quebec sought a way to prevent or slow hair loss during chemotherapy. They found, that by using a scalp-cooling cap, they could constrict the blood vessels around the follicles, preventing some of the chemotherapy drugs from giving their full dose to those areas. When tested on a small, preliminary group, they found that the cap did show promise. The cap was used for 20 minutes before the treatment and for an hour or more after the treatment. Overall, their results showed 69% of women who tried it saw hair loss at the “not at all,” “a little,” or “moderate” levels.
If further trials test the cap and find it successful, it may be another option to add to your chemo treatment down the road. That could mean a lot longer stays at the clinic, but it could also make for a slightly less stressful road to recovery in the end. A scalp-cooling cap that freezes chemo hair loss in its tracks could be one more thing breast cancer survivors have to be thankful for.
- Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.