Is There a Way to Preserve Hair During Chemo?

While it’s true that chemotherapy and hair loss just seem to go hand-in-hand, there have been breakthroughs that can change all that. While not 100 percent effective in every single case, a revolutionary new means for preserving hair can help cancer patients tackle this side effect that is often so very troubling.

The breakthrough therapy is called a chemo cold cap. It’s a special device that’s worn on the head that chills the scalp to prevent chemo drugs from reaching the hair follicles. Since chemo drugs are designed to kill cells and they circulate through the blood, hair is often collateral damage in the battle against cancer.

Chemo cold caps work by introducing a temperature of about negative 22 degrees to the scalp. While this is cold and it will numb the scalp, discomfort is generally the biggest complaint. Numbness sets in about 10 minutes after the cap is worn, so it becomes more tolerable as time goes on. The cap works by restricting blood flow to the scalp, which in turn, prevents chemo drugs from reaching the hair follicles. If these drugs can’t reach the follicles, they can’t damage them enough to cause hair loss.

Chemo cold caps have proven very effective in a number of cases, but they are a bit of a commitment. Those who try this therapy are urged to wear caps for about 50 minutes prior to treatment, during treatment, and for at least three hours afterwards. It’s often best, in fact, to wear the caps for as long as six hours after to ensure that residual chemo drugs don’t make their way to hair follicles.

Chemo cold cap therapy isn’t for everyone, but doctors can help their patients decide. This type of therapy tends to work better on hair that is shorter. The dosage of chemo drugs and other factors may also come into play that affect the likelihood of success.

Hair loss doesn’t have to be a given when chemo is indicated. To find out more about chemo cold caps and if this therapy to preserve hair is right for you, be sure to consult with your doctor.

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