Women can experience a wide range of emotions and thoughts when diagnosed with cancer, and everyone’s reaction is different and personal. But one concern in particular comes to almost every woman’s mind when chemotherapy is prescribed: Will I lose my hair?
Many are told that hair loss, also called alopecia, is inevitable with chemotherapy; and for most, this is an acceptable side effect in the fight to survive. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a profoundly difficult, undesired experience-after all, who hasn’t heard the saying “a woman’s hair is her crowning glory”? While a woman is more than her hair, it’s undeniably a part of her physical and psychological identity.
So it’s no surprise that a special technology aimed at reducing chemotherapy-induced hair loss is creating a buzz among cancer patients.
A company called Medical Specialities Of California makes Penguin Cold Caps, innovative headwraps worn before, during and after each intravenous chemotherapy session for the purpose of preventing hair loss. Made from medical-grade polyurethane filled with crylon gel, Cold Caps are chilled to -22 degrees Fahrenheit in order to cause vasoconstriction, reducing the flow of blood, and therefore the chemotherapy toxins, to the scalp and, more specifically, the hair follicles.
Although the idea was introduced decades ago, it has gone largely unnoticed and unused in the US. However, thousands of women have implemented Cold Cap therapy into their cancer treatment overseas and have reported astounding results. Many claim they experienced no noticeable hair loss.
Rental of the Cold Caps and the special freezers that get them to the required temperature can be expensive, and many doctors aren’t even aware of the option, so an organization called the Rapunzel Project, founded by cancer survivors, works to make this therapy available to American chemotherapy patients.
“Hair loss has been established as the most traumatic side effect of chemotherapy treatment,” MSC says on their website. “By wearing the Penguin Cold Cap, more than 90% of users can save their hair, a very visible sign of cancer, and retain their dignity and self confidence.”