For women undergoing chemotherapy, losing one’s hair is one of the treatment’s most devastating side effects. However, researchers have discovered a “cooling cap” that is placed on the scalp may help women with breast cancer lose less hair as a result of chemotherapy.
Researchers, led by those at the Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine, enrolled 182 women with either stage I or II breast cancer who planned to have at least 4 cycles of either taxane or anthracycline-based chemotherapy. The women were randomly chosen to receive the scalp cooling device or not cooling therapy.
The main purpose of the trial, appropriately named SCALP, was determine the safety and efficacy of the device in reducing hair loss (alopecia) in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Secondary endpoints were whether patients in the device arm needed a wig or scarf and overall quality of life.
Slight more than half of the participants in the cooling group didn’t need a wig or a scarf, while everyone in the control group did, the researchers reported in JAMA.
“With scalp cooling, we are lowering the temperature of the scalp, thereby constricting the blood vessels and reducing the flow of blood to the hair follicles, which will help reduce hair loss by limiting the amount of chemo drugs reaching the follicles,” lead study author Julie Nangia, MD, said in a statement.
View a video about the cooling cap and research on it from Dr. Nangia.