New cooling cap prevents cancer patients from losing hair during chemotherapy

CLEVELAND, Ohio - A cancer diagnosis can leave patients worried about hair loss which often comes with chemo treatments, but there are some special caps that help.

Earlier this year, a brand new type of cap was approved by the FDA for breast cancer patients, something that one cancer survivor, Jennifer Buckland, said did more than just save her hair.

Buckland was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40 after her first mammogram in 2015. Her biggest concern was how the news would affect her two young children.

“I didn't want them to feel or see the struggle, and hair loss is a very visible change,” Buckland said. “Wigs, scarves, I had everything ready.”

But she never ended up needing those wigs and scarves.

Instead, she was unexpectedly offered to be part of a study to try the Orbis Paxman Hair Loss Prevention System at the Cleveland Clinic. The cooling cap system circulates very cold fluid through a helmet-like cap in order to reduce the temperature of the patient's scalp. This reduces the chances of damage to the hair follicles during chemo therapy.

The results of the study showed the Orbis Paxman Hair Loss Prevention System was effective on more than half of the 140 patients, including Buckland.

“It's really uncomfortable, then you get used to it. It's kind of numb,” said Buckland.

She wore the cooling cap for at least four hours every Tuesday. She kept it on before, during and after her chemo treatments.

While the cap helped her keep her hair, she still had to make sacrifices for its effectiveness. She couldn't eat anything solid while wearing the cap and she had to temporarily give up using any type of hair products.

“I love my flat iron, and it was really difficult to let go of. You have to brush real gently. You can't tie things back in your hair,” said Buckland.

But she said those sacrifices were worth it.

“It’s a part of our femininity,” she said. “It's part of your identity, and I know it sounds frivolous to think of hair. ‘Oh, it will grow back and what's the big deal?’ But for me, it's just one less thing that I had to lose in the process.”

She also added that her children didn't miss a beat.

“They didn't notice much of a change, and as being a mom, that made me so happy,” said Buckland.

The cap is now available on the market solely for early stage breast cancer patients who are under a certain regimen. Dr. Jame Abraham with the Cleveland Clinic said researchers are looking into developing cooling caps that can work for patients with other forms of cancer as well.

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