Cancer comes in many forms, and there are just as many treatment options. One of the mainstays of therapy is chemotherapy, which uses a combination of medications to target and destroy the cancer. Unfortunately, chemotherapy often leads to hair loss among patients, and there previously hasn't been an effective prevention method for that. Wearing cooling caps, however, or scalp hypothermia, has been found to reduce hair loss in patients being treated with chemotherapy.
What Is Scalp Hypothermia?
Scalp hypothermia is, as the name suggests, a process of cooling the scalp. Ice packs or cooling caps are applied to the scalp at different periods around chemotherapy treatment, including before, during, and after each treatment.
A high-tech version of scalp hypothermia uses a system that is attached to or controlled by a computer, which circulates cold liquid around the scalp through a cold cap. This system uses two pieces, as a second cap covers the cap over the scalp. The second cap is made from neoprene and helps keep cold from escaping and holds the cap in place.
How Does Scalp Hypothermia Work?
Researchers don't know the exact mechanism behind how scalp hypothermia helps keep hair from falling out. Using the cooling cap helps to constrict the blood vessels around the scalp that provide circulation to the hair follicles and cells of the scalp. The belief is that by tightening up or constricting these blood vessels, the amount of chemotherapeutic medications that reach the hair follicles is decreased.
In addition, the actual activity of the cells around the hair follicle is decreased, so chemotherapy is less likely to target these cells. The reason for that is that chemo tends to target rapidly dividing cells, which many cancer cells are.
Would Scalp Hypothermia Work for You?
Researchers don't know how effective scalp hypothermia is for everyone, and some researchers argue that the process of scalp hypothermia may actually be dangerous to cancer patients. The belief here is that stray cancer cells could be protected in the scalp and continue to grow, rather than be destroyed by the chemotherapy. The prevailing thought is that this is rare, but it is still a consideration.
If you have access to a computer-controlled cooling cap system, you should discuss with your medical team if it might be the right course of treatment for you. Unfortunately, using ice packs only has mixed results. In addition, if the cap doesn't fit well, the chance of having more hair loss is increased.
The success of scalp hypothermia seems to be variable. People with thicker hair seem to have less success, likely because the amount of hair may have an insulating effect and prevent the scalp from cooling down enough. If you don't tolerate cold very well, scalp hypothermia tends to be a poor option, as it can often cause chills and may cause scalp pain.
There are some alternatives to scalp hypothermia, as well as products that can be used in conjunction with this process. Aurora Direct has a patented Follact Hair Restore Serum, which can be used to help stimulate hair regrowth. Their product line uses an active botanical ingredient to help manage your scalp and hair, and they have products specifically designed to be used with scalp cooling.
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