Cancer Patients Could Save Hair With Cooling Caps

A medical study has found that a cooling cap, a helmet-like device which chills the temperatures around the scalp, could let cancer patients keep their hair despite chemotherapy.

Cancer Network reported that the cap, also known as the Orbis Paxman Hair Loss Prevention System, proved to be so effective at preventing hair loss that the trial was cut early. In the study, 235 female breast cancer patients were split into two groups, with one group using the cooling caps and one not. An interim, independent analysis of 95 patients found that over 50 percent of the women using the cooling caps were able to prevent hair loss while every single woman who did not use the caps had hair loss.

The importance of keeping hair

Every person knows the stigma of hair loss which surrounds cancer patients. Chemotherapy targets rapidly growing cells like cancer cells, but will also attack healthy cells which divide frequently like hair cells. The resulting damage harms hair follicles and causes hair to fall out. While the hair may grow back eventually, it becomes a stark reminder to patients of their own mortality.

By cooling the scalp, the Orbis Paxman System restricts blood flow to the area. Since chemo drugs travel through the blood stream, less blood flow means that fewer drugs are transported to the scalp.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the study only looked at female breast cancer patients partly because female patients take losing their hair harder compared to men. The study also noted that those patients who had managed to keep their hair also reported better emotional health.

As a result of this success, the creator of this cap is now filing for FDA approval. The FDA cleared the Dignicap, another scalp cooling system, last December. Unfortunately, the Dignicap is not covered by most insurance plans and the same will likely be true of the Orbis system.

Scalp cooling technology, from companies such as Hairfinity, has been popular in Europe for a number of years, but is only gaining interest in the United States due to potential health concerns from the restricted blood flow. The researchers who conducted the Orbis study did note that they will continue to monitor their patients to note any long-term effects and survival rate.