Introduction to Scalp Cooling
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer and you are going to have chemotherapy you have probably already asked your doctor if you will lose your hair. This is one of the most distressing experiences a woman will face when undergoing her treatment. Anything that can help you prevent losing your hair is worth looking into.
This page will hopefully give you a starting point.
Maybe you have heard about scalp cooling, seen it on a TV show or read about it on an online breast cancer forum. It's possible you have no idea what it is and how it works. This page will try to explain what it is and how it works, in layman's terms, and give you enough information so you can do more research using the links provided and talk about it with your oncologist.
We will be constantly updating this page with the latest information so please check back from time to time.
The Science & How it Works
There has been significant research into the science behind scalp cooling, which has shown that there are several potential mechanisms, but the most commonly recognised is vasoconstriction. The blood vessels of the scalp are restricted, causing them to narrow, reducing the amount of chemotherapy reaching the hair follicles which in turn causes less hair to be lost. The amount of hair that scalp cooling can help to retain will vary depending on the chemotherapy drug type. Everyone who scalp cools will experience some shedding, even those with the highest levels of hair retention, but the hope for most patients is that they will have enough hair that a stranger wouldn't know they were going through chemotherapy. For patients receiving Taxotere/Docetaxel, scalp cooling has been proven to prevent a patient from suffering pCIA - Persistent Chemotherapy Induced Alopecia. In other words permanent hair loss.
Scalp cooling has also been proven to ensure faster and healthier hair regrowth, even for patients that sustain significant hair loss. Continuing to scalp cool through chemotherapy treatment, regardless of hair retention, will provide ongoing protection to a patient's hair follicles. This is also the case for patients who may be at risk of persistent alopecia.
Scalp Cooling Systems
Scalp cooling comes in two forms - mechanised and manual. Mechanised scalp cooling relies on an individually sized cap that is attached to a system next to your chair during your chemotherapy session. The system sends a coolant through the cap reducing and maintaining the temperature of the patient's scalp. There are two systems available www.paxmanscalpcooling.com and www.dignicap.com both systems are FDA cleared and supply their scalp cooling systems globally.
Manual scalp cooling uses gel caps that use dry ice to get cold and must be swapped out throughout treatment. This method is not cleared by the FDA. They are produced by several manufacturers including Penguin Chemo Cold Caps and https://arcticcoldcaps.com/
Does scalp cooling work?
Scalp cooling has been studied extensively internationally and has shown to be the only effective method of preventing chemotherapy-induced alopecia. While the outcomes do vary from drug to drug and from person to person, there is an average 50% chance of a patient retaining 50% of their hair.
Paxman offers a scalp cooling outcomes calculator which can be found here https://coldcap.com/scalp-cooling-outcomes-calculator/
This revolutionary technology is allowing breast cancer patients to keep their private health information, well, exactly that. Patients can choose who they want to share their breast cancer diagnosis with instead of sharing it with the general public each time they venture outside wearing a headscarf or turban. Being able to look in the mirror and not see a cancer patient looking back can greatly lift the spirit, improving mental health and give some control back to the patient.