Scalp Cooling Treatment
Hair loss is widely recognized as one of the most feared side effects associated with chemotherapy. Losing hair can have a significant psychological effect on the patient’s self-esteem and lead to increased social isolation.
Scalp cooling treatment can help minimize hair loss due to the effects of chemotherapy. More important, this relatively painless procedure empowers patients and gives them a greater sense of control during cancer treatment. Baptist Cancer Center is delighted to offer this option – also known as ‘cold cap’ – to patients at our locations across the Mid-South.
Why Chemotherapy Makes Hair Fall Out
Chemotherapy works by targeting all rapidly dividing cells. Hair cells are the second-fastest dividing cells in the body, which is why many chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss. Vulnerable hair follicles in the growth phase are attacked, resulting in rapid and extensive hair loss approximately two weeks after the start of chemotherapy.
How Scalp Cooling Treatment Works
Scalp cooling alleviates the damage caused to the hair follicles from chemotherapy by reducing the temperature of the scalp by a few degrees before, during, and after chemotherapy treatment. This cooling causes blood vessels in the scalp to constrict, which reduces blood flow and the number of chemotherapy agents that reach the hair follicles. The treatment is safe and relatively easy to tolerate. The most common side effect is a minor headache caused by the cooling.
The success rate for scalp cooling is high as 70% for some chemotherapy regimens, and there is evidence that scalp cooling encourages faster, healthier and stronger regrowth than would occur without the treatment.
For more information or additional resources about scalp cooling treatment offered at Baptist Cancer Center, please talk to your care team.
Financial assistance for scalp cooling is available to patients at Baptist Cancer Center through multiple foundations, including the Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation. Your care team can help you apply.
Frequently Asked Questions
I don’t have breast cancer. Can I still use the cap for my chemo treatment?
This is dependent on your cancer type. Scalp cooling treatment is cleared by the FDA for use with all solid cancer tumors. For patients who don’t meet the FDA recommendation for scalp cooling, we recommend that you consult with your Baptist Cancer Center physician.
How do I access scalp cooling?
Talk to your clinical care team about scalp cooling treatment and if it is right for you. They will be able to guide you on selecting the best treatment options for your personalized care.
How much does scalp cooling cost?
There is a maximum out-of-pocket expense for scalp cooling. Baptist Cancer Center is dedicated to provide financial resources and assistance where applicable. Please reach out to your care team to begin consultation and financial assistance processes.
Is scalp cooling painful?
Everyone has their own tolerance to the cold. Scalp cooling is not painful for most people, but some do find it unpleasant or uncomfortable. During chemotherapy, the scalp’s temperature is rapidly brought down from about 98.6°F (37°C) to 64°- 72°F (18 – 22°C). Patients report that the first 10-15 minutes are the most uncomfortable. After this the scalp adapts to the cool temperature and will generally feel numb. Less than three percent of people discontinue use of scalp cooling because they find it intolerable.
Will I be able to keep all of my hair?
Unfortunately, no. Shedding is an unavoidable part of scalp cooling, no matter how successful. However, shedding does not mean that scalp cooling isn’t working either. Shedding will likely begin 14 to 21 days after your first chemo treatment and, without the cold cap, hair loss would be extensive if not complete with most regimens. With the cold cap, you will still need to anticipate some shedding, but you should retain most of your hair.