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How Cooling Caps Can Prevent Hair Loss During Chemo

How Cooling Caps Can Prevent Hair Loss During Chemo

As a trillion-ton iceberg calved from the Larsen C Icecap on Antarctica, scientists warned it’s just the beginning: 90 percent of the ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula are starting to disintegrate. That has far-reaching repercussions, since frozen or thawing icecaps at both poles influence everything from sea level to temperature and rain cycles around the globe.

Better news about icecaps is always welcome, and the FDA made an announcement that should cheer up folks undergoing certain types of chemo. Ice caps—well, they’re really called cooling caps—have been approved for expanded use. Originally approved only for breast cancer patients, they can be used to prevent hair loss by anyone undergoing chemotherapy for a solid tumor. They’re highly effective 50 to 65 percent of the time.

The computer-controlled system circulates a cool gel (-15° to -40°F) through a cap that’s placed on your head. It helps prevent hair loss by constricting blood vessels in the scalp, reducing the amount of chemotherapy that reaches cells in your hair follicles; it also slows down cell division and the activity of the hair follicles, making them less affected by chemotherapy. Good news: the FDA says, “the risk of the chemotherapy drug missing an isolated grouping of the cancer cells in the scalp because of the cooling cap is rare.”

So, if you are headed for chemo, talk with your oncologist to determine if, given your planned treatment, it makes sense for you to cool your cap or not.

Medically reviewed in November 2019.

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