Scalp Cooling and Hair Loss
There is no need to go into the usual diatribe about hair loss. We all know how horrible and distressing and stressful it is....and that we somehow settle into baldness and cope. Twenty or twenty five years ago there was a brief period when an ice cap was popular and recommended as a way to reduce hair loss. The idea was that a woman wore it (looked kind of like a big shower cap, filled with ice) during a chemo infusion. In theory, the cold constrcited the blood vessels in the scalp, reducing the flow of blood to that area, and thereby reduced the damage and subsequent hair loss. There were a few problems: it gave people horrible headaches, there was some concern about the wisdom of the theory, and it didn't work.
There are now two more modern products that actually may be effective. I have not seen anyone use them or heard about them from either a patient or a doctor/nurse. But I have read several articles, and now here is a Dutch study from The Oncologist which suggests that they work. Amazing. If this is relevant to you, you might want to read the whole study, print it out, and talk to your doctor about the possibilities.
Here is the abstract and a link:
Factors Influencing the Effectiveness of Scalp Cooling in the Prevention of Chemotherapy-Induced Alopecia.
Komen MM, Smorenburg CH, van den Hurk CJ, Nortier JW.
Department of Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology, Medical Centre Alkmaar, Alkmaar, The Netherlands;
The success of scalp cooling in preventing or reducing chemotherapy-induced alopecia (CIA) is highly variable between patients and chemotherapy regimens. The outcome of hair preservation is often unpredictable and depends on various factors.
We performed a structured search of literature published from 1970 to February 2012 for articles that reported on factors influencing the effectiveness of scalp cooling to prevent CIA in patients with cancer.
The literature search identified 192 reports, of which 32 studies were considered relevant. Randomized studies on scalp cooling are scarce and there is little information on the determinants of the result. The effectiveness of scalp cooling for hair preservation depends on dose and type of chemotherapy, with less favorable results at higher doses. Temperature seems to be an important determinant. Various studies suggest that a subcutaneous scalp temperature less than 22°C is required for hair preservation.
The effectiveness of scalp cooling for hair preservation varies by chemotherapy type and dose, and probably by the degree and duration of cooling.