Can 'cold cap' therapy help prevent chemo-linked hair loss?
Published Tuesday, August 13, 2013 9:14AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 14, 2013 12:23PM EDT
A British Columbia woman is trying to spread awareness about cold cap therapy, which she said prevented hair loss during her chemotherapy by freezing the scalp and hair follicles.
When former pro-snowboarder Megan Pischke was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, she came across the hair cap that when worn regularly, is said to prevent chemotherapy-induced-alopecia.
Chemotherapy drugs act by killing cancer cells that divide rapidly, but the treatment also harms normal cells, including ones in the hair follicles, leading to hair loss.
For some, it’s the most dreaded side-effect of chemotherapy, as it reveals an illness that some would rather keep private.
After researching clinical trials and receiving the go-ahead from her physicians, Pischke reached out to a U.S. company called Penguin Cold Caps.
The married mother of two told Canada AM Tuesday that after undergoing 16 chemotherapy treatments, she hasn’t lost any hair.
Pischke said using the head gear to prevent hair loss was a personal decision as she managed her illness.
“I really felt like I wanted to keep this story really close to home and really personal, especially in the beginning,” Pischke. “I wanted to keep a sense of normalcy for myself and also for my children.”
With help from her husband, Pischke would put on one of eight caps that were rotated in and out of coolers for 7 hours.
Cold caps must be changed every half hour and kept at a temperature of -32 C. The caps are put on dry ice, or can be placed in a special freezer, Pischke said.
But the caps come at a cost: Pischke had to invest in the dry ice coolers, and between renting the caps and buying storage, the cost was $4,000.
Much of it was funded by the snowboarding community and Boarding for Breast Cancer, a non-profit organization that provides support programs for breast cancer patients. Pischke has been involved with the organization for 15 years.
“The first few minutes of the first few caps definitely is a pretty intense, (like an) ice-cream headache,” she said. “But you get pretty numb and then it doesn’t seem to bother you toward the end.”
Pischke said she wants women to know that the caps are a viable option.
“That’s something for all women to decide with their doctors, with their partners,” she said.