Cold caps cool the scalp to help minimize or prevent hair loss caused by chemotherapy.
What does it involve?
Scalp cooling works by reducing blood flow to the scalp before, during, and after chemotherapy, limiting the amount of chemotherapy drug that reaches the hair follicles.
Some women simply place ice packs on their heads, rotating packs as they thaw. There are also many brands of cold caps available for rental during chemotherapy. One brand, DigniCap, has been approved by the FDA to help reduce the frequency and severity of hair loss in female breast cancer patients during chemotherapy treatment.
A scalp cooling system involves a tight-fitting, stretchy cap with a chin strap worn during chemotherapy. Some caps are chilled and rotated out as they thaw. In other systems, such as DigniCap, caps are attached to a cooling unit that keeps the cap cold for the duration of use.
A study that tested the effectiveness of the DigniCap system involved 117 women receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer. Of those who used the DigniCap, 66.3 percent lost less than half their hair. In the control group, 100 percent of the women who did not use the DigniCap lost at least half their hair.
DigniCap was found to be more effective at preventing hair loss in some chemotherapy regimens than others.
Most women feel chilly while wearing cold caps. Headaches, scalp discomfort, itchiness, or pain may also occur.
Depending on your health insurance plan, cold caps may not be covered.
Scalp cooling systems can be expensive to use. Depending on how many sessions of chemotherapy are needed, DigniCap may cost $1,500 to $3,000.