When you first hear the diagnosis of cancer, the mind poses a myriad of questions. First, you want to know all the options available in the treatment for the disease. What’s next are the corresponding side effects of each option and how they will impact your life, in the short- and long-terms. For many, the side effects weigh heavy on which course of treatment will be utilized. A common fear with cancer treatment is the potential for hair loss. And for the patients who prefer to keep their diagnosis a private matter, nothing could be more revealing than to lose one’s natural locks. The FDA announced its approval of a cooling cap for chemo that can prevent “hair loss” in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Let’s look at how hair loss happens.
Chemotherapy Induced Alopecia (CIA)
Many chemotherapies will target all cells in the body that divide rapidly. Along with tumor cells, human hair growth happens in the same way that cancer cells populate. This is why hair loss from cancer treatment, known as chemotherapy induced alopecia, can happen. To stop cancer, drugs need to be effective at apoptosis, or cell death. Unfortunately, cell death can also take root in the hair follicles. CIA is not a result from all chemotherapy regimens, as it depends on the type of drugs used, duration of treatment, and the manner in which the drug is administered to the patient.
Research has shown that CIA will begin within one to two weeks after chemo begins. Usually, within 90 days after the first days of cancer treatment, patients will have lost all their hair. The good news: It’s temporary.
Just as the body begins to restore and heal 30 days after chemotherapy has stopped, hair follicles seemingly return to life. Though it may take up to three months before new hair growth is visible, more than half of cancer patients who had chemo experience change to their hair. Some see a difference in color while others note the structure or texture has transformed into something new (coarse or fine, wavy or curly).
Why Putting the Freeze on Chemo Makes a Difference
Studies continue to take place to better understand why some patients experience CIA and others don’t. Scientists are looking into genetics as a precursor for CIA from chemotherapy.
For more than 40 years, the idea of cooling the scalp to help minimize the risks of alopecia has been considered and tested. Recent posts in the Journal of the American Medical Association “JAMA” show results in the use of such practices. And now, the FDA puts their seal of approval on it.
Cancer Patients Find Relief with Dignicap Cooling
In clinical trials, 66 percent of breast cancer patients treated with the Dignicap Cooling System during chemo infusions lost only half of their hair. Since chemotherapy generally affects “rapidly dividing cells” including hair follicles, both normal (hair follicles) and cancer cells are affected. However, the cooling mechanism in the head cap causes vessels in the scalp to constrict or “shrink”. This helps decrease the amount of chemotherapy going directly to hair follicles, thus preventing hair loss.
Compassion Matters during Cancer Treatment
At AZGyn, we take a more “natural” approach to healthcare. In the treatment of cancer, we provide our patients with a cooling cap (to decrease hair loss). In addition, we also provide “cold” mittens for hands and feet, reducing the chances of “neuropathies” (numbness and tingling in hands and feet) after receiving chemotherapy.
For a Safer, More Natural Approach to Cancer Care and Women’s Health
Founder and Medical Director of ARIZONA GYNECOLOGY CONSULTANTS
Dr. Kelly Roy is a specialist in surgical gynecology and advanced laparoscopy (and hysteroscopy). She is a long-time resident of Arizona and obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering at Arizona State University before finishing her Doctorate of Medicine at the University of Arizona in 1997.
Dr. Roy completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the then “Banner Good Samaritan Hospital” (now Banner University Medical Center), in Phoenix Arizona in 2001.
Well known for her teaching and surgical ability, she is on the faculty at the residency program at both Banner University Medical Center and Saint Joseph’s Hospital in central Phoenix and is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix Campus. Dr. Roy has taught advanced surgical techniques to medical students, residents, fellows and colleagues for over 15 years.
Dr. Roy is also a consultant to the medical device industry and has participated in the design and clinical testing of many instruments and surgical devices available on the world-wide market today.