Scalp cooling can help hair retention after cancer treatment

03/04/2015

chemo-caps

Those of you who have read our articles in the past will know we try to cover all kinds of hair loss issues. Sometimes hair loss is not down to direct medical complaints but associated issues. With cancer of course, chemotherapy will usually lead to hair loss of some description. There was good news this week when a scientific team from Huddersfield revealed that they have found a treatment for reducing the amount of hair loss following chemo which involves cooling the scalp.

The team have found that the scalp cooling process could reduce hair loss in 50% of cases. Head of the research team Dr Nikolaos Georgopoulos said there was a range of explanations for the effectiveness of new method.  For example, the lowered temperature of the scalp could result in greatly reduced blood flow to the area, so that less of the drug (associated with chemotherapy) finds its way to the hair follicles.  It is also possible that cooling reduces the level of drug uptake in the region of the hair cells, or that the same effect is produced by a lowering of the metabolism.

A simple process

The system works by attaching a cold cap to the patients head. The cap is filled with gel and is a refrigerated cooling system which pumps liquid coolant through the cap. The procedure cannot be used in all cancer cases as can be seen on the Macmillan cancer support website at the moment.

Dr Georgopoulos explained that the primary concern with doctors introducing chemotherapy to the patient is to deal with the cancers and save lives. Hair loss is seen as collateral damage. While chemotherapy remains the main form of treatment for cancer sufferers of course the side effects have to take second place to the fantastic work the treatment can affect, and the lives it can save in the long run.

Can it soon be part of cancer treatment?

He felt that hair loss which results through chemotherapy is still a major issue for many cancer patients. There are still many patients who will think twice about the treatment because of the fear of losing their hair. Dr Georgopoulos believes that at the very least this new treatment could help cancer patients in two ways. First of all, it will reduce doubts and fears about taking on the treatment and it will also be a psychological boost when patients see for themselves that the treatment is not causing too much detriment to their physical appearance.

Scientists are hoping that the scalp cooling procedures now become a routine part of chemotherapy treatment and an established part of nurse training.

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