New treatment being tested to save the hair of chemotherapy patients

Caused by chemotherapy, it's one of the most obvious signs of cancer treatment. But a cool new therapy is helping some patients lock-in their locks.

When Cheryl Cook got breast cancer her doctor recommended chemotherapy.

Cheryl Cook, Breast Cancer Survivor, describes what the doctor told her to expect, "Because of the drug that I'd be takin', I would lose my hair before the second treatment."

So, she started researching ways to stop that. Cheryl discovered this clinical trial, testing an investigational system, designed to prevent chemo-induced hair loss.

Cook explains what the procedure is like, "I am literally hooked up to machine that acts like an air conditioner and it reduces the scalp to 42 degrees."

A coolant circulates through this silicone cap, causing blood flow to hair follicles to constrict. There are some concerns doing that could create a place for cancer cells to hide during chemo treatments. But, studies in Europe and Asia, where the cap is widely available, show it's safe and effective.

Susan Melin, MD, Associate Professor, Division of Hematology and Oncology, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, explains how it works, "It cools the scalp down and by doing that prevents the chemotherapy from actually getting into the hair follicles and causing hair loss."

Cheryl wore the cap during every one of her chemo treatments. Color, perms, and blow drying were off limits.

Cook explains how easy it was, "It was very easy for me to manage and I was glad to."

For the 20 study participants with stage one breast cancer, the treatment paid off. Most patients kept enough hair, and they didn't need a wig or head covering.

Cook explains how she had accepted loosing her hair, "I had pretty much decided you know, I'm gonna lose my hair, when I got the news, but the fact that I didn't, you just feel better."

Knocking out cancer and keeping her hair, for Cheryl, it just doesn't get any cooler.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco are the only two centers in the US involved in this particular cold cap study.

The next step is a larger study with at least one-hundred patients. The cold cap is available to patients with all kinds of cancer in Europe and Asia. Right now, it's only approved for investigational use in the US.

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