Chemotherapy drugs are specially designed medications that are programmed to attack cancer cells. Cancer cells grow rapidly which means that the drugs will also, unfortunately, attack other rapidly growing cells throughout the body– including your hair follicles. Because of this chemo can cause loss of hair and not just the hair on your head, but anywhere on your body. Cancer patients have reported the loss of eyelashes, eyebrows, pubic hair, armpit hair and other body hair. Different chemotherapy drugs and differing levels of dose can affect hair loss as well. For many cancer patients the loss of hair simply adds insult to injury. One new method for preventing hair loss is called cold therapy.
Hair loss prevention for chemotherapy patients did not used to be an option. It was an accepted fact that the powerful chemo drugs simply took your hair. Recently it was hypothesized that if you could restrict or slow the blood flow to the scalp while the chemotherapy drugs were in the system it would provide a tool for hair loss prevention. Restricting the blood flow through compression or other methods was deemed not practical, but the specific application of cold to slow the blood flow was tried to some initial success.
A cold therapy cap is placed on the head up to 15 minutes before the start of chemotherapy to begin the process of slowing down and restricting circulation. The cold cap is kept on throughout the therapy and for up to 1-2 hours after your chemo session has ended. Some people find the cold caps too uncomfortable and cannot tolerate wearing them for the time needed to achieve full efficacy. For the majority of people however, they can tolerate the cold in a bid to save their hair. This method is producing fairly good results with hair loss prevention and at least supplies an option to the old sense of inevitable hair loss.
Cold therapy might be just the right thing for preventing hair loss due to chemotherapy. No longer does it have to be an automatic that you lose your hair when you undergo chemo treatments. Of course, like any medical treatment, this process is not 100% effective, and results will vary depending on what chemo drugs cocktail will be used. In addition, depending on what type of cancer you have restricting the drugs from your scalp may not be a good idea. The best bet is to talk everything out with your doctor to decide what is best in your case.