Updated: Oct 2, 2021
A cancer diagnosis can change a person’s outlook on life from the moment they hear “you have cancer.” Hair loss is just one of many side effects that cancer patients can experience from chemotherapy treatments. Losing your hair from chemotherapy can have a profound impact on one’s self-image and confidence. In addition, hair loss can have a significant emotional and social impact for so many patients.
One of the most impactful lessons that I have learned during my yoga for cancer teacher training is that most cancer patients do not want to be constantly reminded of their cancer diagnosis. Hair loss can be an unwanted reminder of a cancer diagnosis, which can significantly delay cancer patients from returning to work and maintaining their social relationships. The cold cap or scalp cooling therapy is not a new concept. However, too many people are not aware there are options available that can help prevent hair loss from chemotherapy.
Scalp cooling can help reduce damage from chemotherapy by constricting the blood vessels in the scalp, which also reduces the blood flow to the hair follicles. When the blood flow to the hair follicles is decreased, the amount of chemotherapy medication that can get into the follicle cells are also decreased. Scalp cooling therapy can help to improve a cancer patient's self-esteem, change their attitude about their chemotherapy treatments, and can help protect their privacy while seeking cancer treatments.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved some scalp cooling therapy devices such as the DigniCap Delta and the Paxman Cooling Cap. However, we need health insurance companies to cover the costs of cold cap therapy for patients receiving chemotherapy treatments. Some insurance companies may cover or reimburse their members for wigs. However, I am certain most cancer patients would prefer to keep their own hair while getting chemotherapy treatments. Make sure you call your insurance company to find out if they would cover the charge of renting a cold cap. Or, ask if they could cover a certain number of cold cap therapy treatments.
The Rapunzel Project has a comprehensive list on their website here, which provides locations around the United States that have the Paxman or DigniCap cooling devices for cold cap therapy. Remember, if you are diagnosed with cancer and have to get chemo as a part of your treatment, ask your oncologist and health insurance provider about cold cap and cold scalp therapy.
FDA Clears Expanded Use of Cooling Cap to Reduce Hair Loss During Chemotherapy (July 2017). Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-clears-expanded-use-cooling-cap-reduce-hair-loss-during-chemotherapy
The Rapunzel Project (September 2021). Retrieved from: http://www.rapunzelproject.org/ColdCaps/Locations.aspx
Disclosure: (I am a writer and editor for the National Institutes of Health. Information contained in this blog post are not associated with my role at NIH).