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Isabel suffered from breast cancer and needed months of chemotherapy treatment so that there were improved chances of her to recover. Her oncologist explained to her the several side effects that she could have due to chemotherapy, including hair loss. Isabel did not want her co-workers to find out about her ill health and was worried that because of the hair loss, things would get obvious. She shared her concern with her oncologist who in turn recommended the use of scalp cooling therapy to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy. Undoubtedly, the therapy worked; she did not lose any significant amount of hair. She could not only minimize her hair loss but also maintain privacy!
But does it always work like that?
What is scalp cooling and how does it work?
Scalp cooling or scalp hypothermia is a process by which hair follicles are cooled and thus made inactive, also making them less susceptible to the damage during chemotherapy; the result can be reduced hair loss.
In other words, because of the scalp cooling process like ice packs or tight-fitting cooling caps, blood vessels are constricted causing less blood flow to the scalp. This stops the chemo drug from reaching the cells of the hair follicles, and thus the lesser damage.
Ideally, cold caps and scalp cooling systems are tight-fitting, helmet-like covers or hats that are filled with cold liquid or gel. These caps are generally worn for 30 – 60 minutes before the chemotherapy sessions starts; they are also worn during the infusion session and for a certain period of time after the infusion is over. The duration for which it is worn after the session is 30-45 minutes. To increase the effectiveness of the scalp cooling, wear the cap 2 to 3 times in 30-minute intervals on the evening of the infusion. This out-of-hospital cooling can only be achieved using portable caps such as Arctic Heat.
However, the effectiveness of scalp hypothermia can depend on other influences. These include the type of chemo drugs used, the chemo dosage, and tolerance level of the person to cold temperatures. Some studies have shown that people having thicker hair loose more as compared to the ones with thinner hair, the reason being – it is more difficult to attain scalp cooling due to the insulating effect of hair. Also, ill-fitting cooling caps cause hair loss to happen more because of the poor contact with the scalp. Therefore, it is imperative for people to use the cap correctly and follow cap instructions during chemotherapy to achieve minimized hair loss.
Research shows that at least half of the women who have used scalp cooling methods like cooling caps offered by Arctic Heat lost less than half of their hair.
Who can use scalp cooling?
Scalp cooling has been recommended and proven to be effective for people of all ages undergoing chemotherapy for most cancers. However, this process is not advisable for use in leukaemia or some other blood related cancers.
Also, using scalp cooling procedures may not be suitable for people who cannot tolerate cold temperatures. If you have undergone your first round of chemotherapy without scalp cooling, it is still advisable for you. If this is the case there will be noticeable hair loss from the first treatment but using the caps going forward should assist in hair retention. The same holds true for very high doses of chemotherapy treatments. Side effects could be headaches or migraines. Always check the suitability of using cooling caps with your Oncologist or Nurse.
Cooling caps from Arctic Heat are successfully used in Europe, Australia, and the UK and are thus highly recommended for usage in chemotherapy for people of all ages. The cap is light in weight and comfortable to wear making it the ideal choice for people who may suffer from migraine headaches or any other such side effects. Made with the latest technology, they are apt for any application that requires scalp cooling or heating. Each cap has 10 built-in gel pockets; these pockets are filled with crystals that are activated into a gel when placed in water for 10 mins. The cap fabric is then dried and the cap placed in the freezer to freeze the gel. On the morning of the infusion take the caps from the freezer place them in a cooler bag prior to leaving and apply as instructed. They are available for purchase in Chemo kit packs of 3,4 and 5 or individually.
Following are some tips that are based on the experiences of cold cap users and that can help you get enhanced benefits. Always remember to consult your cancer specialist or a medical practitioner for advice on whether or not, scalp cooling is advisable and suitable for you.
1. Although cooling cap may help in hair retention, due to the process of chemotherapy, your hair may become brittle and dry. Try following hair care instructions like using a mild shampoo, not shampooing your hair until at least two days after your chemotherapy, and not washing your hair too often.
2. The initial few minutes of wearing the cap may be a little uncomfortable, but after a short period of time, the scalp will become accustomed to the cap temperature and will feel far more comfortable for the duration. So, be prepared for it and have patience. Focus on the bigger picture – think about the benefits that it is going to offer you!
3. Always use a soft hairbrush / wide-toothed comb on your hair.
For further information on the Arctic Heat cooling caps follow this link, arcticheat.com.au/product/chemokit/