Hair loss is one of the most hated side effects of chemotherapy, but now breast cancer patients are receiving a new method to attempt to save their hair.
On Tuesday the Food and Drug Administration stated that it would permit marketing of the DigniCap, a cooling system that chills the scalps of patients to minimize hair loss that is so common during breast cancer treatment.
The lead researcher and doctor of the hair-saving strategy welcome the FDA’s approval, stating that hair loss has a traumatic effect on survivors and patients, by exposing an illness that many would rather keep private.
Dr. Hope Rugo of the University of California, San Fransisco, commented that it’s such a marker for women – for their children, for their families, for work – that something is wrong with them. You receive only a few months of chemotherapy and it takes over a year for your hair to recover.
The idea of scalp cooling has been around for decades. The near-freezing temperatures are meant to make it more difficult for cancer-fighting drugs to reach and damage hair follicles by temporarily reducing cell metabolism and blood flow in the scalp.
Several varieties of cold caps are sold around the globe. In the United States, breast cancer patients often bring collections of gel-filled caps in ice chests to chemo sessions, or keep them in hospital-provided freezers, so that they can wear another when one cap thaws.
Made by Sweden’s Dignitana AB, the DigniCap is the first variety officially approved by the FDA. Dignitana AB will lease the devise to cancer centres to use on their patients who come in for chemotherapy.
So how does it work? Half an hour before beginning a chemo session, patients put on a tight fitting cap that is connected to the cooling machine. It slowly chills the scalp, being cautious to stay above freezing, until it’s numb as the chemo infusion starts. Cancer patients remain hooked to the cooling system during the treatment, and for roughly one and a half hours later as blood levels of the cancer-battling drugs drop.
Rugo and oncologists at four other medical centres examined the DigniCap system in 122 women going through standard chemo regimens for early-stage breast cancer. Over two-thirds of the treated women kept more than half their hair.
Deanna King of San Francisco who took part in the trial in late 2013 stated looking healthy made her feel healthier. She kept 80% of her hair.
When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she’d been between jobs, and holding on to her hair made it easier to restart interviews with possible employers as soon as she felt well enough.
King added that people are scared of those that look sick, and keeping her hair made the experience less traumatic.
The most frequent side effects of the DigniCap treatment were neck and shoulder discomfort, cold-induced headaches, pain and chills linked with wearing the DigniCap for an extended period, according to the FDA.
Due to the fact that women tend to survive early breast cancer for several years, the FDA should supply the evidence to show if there are any long-term risks.
Although the cost is still being finalized, breast cancer patients would be charged a fee for each use of the cooling cap. The total cost could range from $1,500 to $3,000 depending on how many rounds of chemotherapy a woman undergoes, according to Dignitana chief operating officer Bill Cronin. Furthermore, the company is negotiating with insurance companies for coverage.