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Q
Preventing Hair Loss from Chemo?

I've read that cancer patients can keep their hair during chemotherapy by keeping their heads cold and that there are devices to use for this. I'm told they really work but don't understand how. 

A
Answer (Published 6/29/2015)

The reason hair comes out during chemotherapy is that the drugs that kill rapidly dividing cancer cells also kill rapidly dividing normal cells in the body, including those in hair follicles. Depending on the duration of chemotherapy and the specific drugs used, all or some of your hair may come out, or you may not lose any. This side effect of cancer treatment is highly visible and often very distressing. Reportedly, eight percent of cancer patients refuse chemotherapy because they fear losing their hair.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet! - Everything you need to get started eating a healthful, satisfying diet is here - including eating and shopping guides, over 300 recipes, and an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid! Start your 14-day free trial now - and start eating anti-inflammatory today!

"Cold caps" to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy are widely used in Europe and are gaining popularity in the U.S. They apparently work because cold skin prevents hair follicles from efficiently absorbing the drugs - either by reducing blood flow to them or by temporarily stopping their growth. The devices seem to work for patients with breast cancer and other solid tumors, but not so well for those with blood cancers.

As yet-unpublished research from the University of California, San Francisco and other medical centers showed that most women who used a cold cap kept most of their hair, according to a report in the New York Times.

The process requires renting caps at a cost of about $600 per month from one of the companies that makes them. The caps must be kept frozen, either on dry ice or in a special medical freezer. (Home freezers aren't able to cool to the specified temperature – 22 degrees below zero.) Not all hospitals have the freezers needed. You can find a list of those that do at http://www.rapunzelproject.org/ColdCaps.aspx#ClinicalTrials, the website of The Rapunzel Project, an organization founded by two cancer survivors to raise money to purchase the special freezers for hospitals.

Women (or men) who decide to try the scalp freezing technique need to bring a friend, relative or helper to chemo sessions to change the cap every half hour. This
must be done in less than two minutes so that the scalp is exposed to room temperature for only a few seconds. The helper's job also includes making sure the patient drinks water during the chemotherapy session and keeping the patient warm during the first few minutes of cap application, which can be very uncomfortable. Patients need to keep using – and changing - the caps for a few hours after the chemotherapy infusion ends.

The average cost has been estimated at about $2,000 for the duration of chemotherapy. The cost isn't covered by insurance, but there have been reports of insurers reimbursing patients as much as the cost of a medically prescribed wig they might otherwise choose to buy. This runs about $1,500.

Patients who do use cold caps are advised to avoid blow-drying their hair, using heat treatments, coloring it or washing frequently during treatment.

Scalp cooling is expensive and inconvenient, but for motivated patients it can prevent the hair loss that so often comes with chemotherapy. I should add here that I have known a few cases of people who avoided hair loss during chemotherapy simply by using interactive guided imagery, a mind/body wellness therapy.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Source:

Nikolaos T. Georgopoulosa et al. "Use of in vitro human keratinocyte models to study the effect of cooling on chemotherapy drug-induced cytotoxici."Toxicology in Vitro, Volume 28, Issue 8, December 2014, doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2014.07.011.

Tara Parker-Pope, "Keeping Your Hair in Chemo," The New York Times, accessed March 26, 2015, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/09/keeping-your-hair-in-chemo/?_r=2

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Q
Preventing Hair Loss from Chemo?

I've read that cancer patients can keep their hair during chemotherapy by keeping their heads cold and that there are devices to use for this. I'm told they really work but don't understand how. 

A
Answer (Published 6/29/2015)

The reason hair comes out during chemotherapy is that the drugs that kill rapidly dividing cancer cells also kill rapidly dividing normal cells in the body, including those in hair follicles. Depending on the duration of chemotherapy and the specific drugs used, all or some of your hair may come out, or you may not lose any. This side effect of cancer treatment is highly visible and often very distressing. Reportedly, eight percent of cancer patients refuse chemotherapy because they fear losing their hair.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet! - Everything you need to get started eating a healthful, satisfying diet is here - including eating and shopping guides, over 300 recipes, and an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid! Start your 14-day free trial now - and start eating anti-inflammatory today!

"Cold caps" to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy are widely used in Europe and are gaining popularity in the U.S. They apparently work because cold skin prevents hair follicles from efficiently absorbing the drugs - either by reducing blood flow to them or by temporarily stopping their growth. The devices seem to work for patients with breast cancer and other solid tumors, but not so well for those with blood cancers.

As yet-unpublished research from the University of California, San Francisco and other medical centers showed that most women who used a cold cap kept most of their hair, according to a report in the New York Times.

The process requires renting caps at a cost of about $600 per month from one of the companies that makes them. The caps must be kept frozen, either on dry ice or in a special medical freezer. (Home freezers aren't able to cool to the specified temperature – 22 degrees below zero.) Not all hospitals have the freezers needed. You can find a list of those that do at http://www.rapunzelproject.org/ColdCaps.aspx#ClinicalTrials, the website of The Rapunzel Project, an organization founded by two cancer survivors to raise money to purchase the special freezers for hospitals.

Women (or men) who decide to try the scalp freezing technique need to bring a friend, relative or helper to chemo sessions to change the cap every half hour. This
must be done in less than two minutes so that the scalp is exposed to room temperature for only a few seconds. The helper's job also includes making sure the patient drinks water during the chemotherapy session and keeping the patient warm during the first few minutes of cap application, which can be very uncomfortable. Patients need to keep using – and changing - the caps for a few hours after the chemotherapy infusion ends.

The average cost has been estimated at about $2,000 for the duration of chemotherapy. The cost isn't covered by insurance, but there have been reports of insurers reimbursing patients as much as the cost of a medically prescribed wig they might otherwise choose to buy. This runs about $1,500.

Patients who do use cold caps are advised to avoid blow-drying their hair, using heat treatments, coloring it or washing frequently during treatment.

Scalp cooling is expensive and inconvenient, but for motivated patients it can prevent the hair loss that so often comes with chemotherapy. I should add here that I have known a few cases of people who avoided hair loss during chemotherapy simply by using interactive guided imagery, a mind/body wellness therapy.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Source:

Nikolaos T. Georgopoulosa et al. "Use of in vitro human keratinocyte models to study the effect of cooling on chemotherapy drug-induced cytotoxici."Toxicology in Vitro, Volume 28, Issue 8, December 2014, doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2014.07.011.

Tara Parker-Pope, "Keeping Your Hair in Chemo," The New York Times, accessed March 26, 2015, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/09/keeping-your-hair-in-chemo/?_r=2

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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Q & A Library



Q
Preventing Hair Loss from Chemo?

I've read that cancer patients can keep their hair during chemotherapy by keeping their heads cold and that there are devices to use for this. I'm told they really work but don't understand how. 

A
Answer (Published 6/29/2015)

The reason hair comes out during chemotherapy is that the drugs that kill rapidly dividing cancer cells also kill rapidly dividing normal cells in the body, including those in hair follicles. Depending on the duration of chemotherapy and the specific drugs used, all or some of your hair may come out, or you may not lose any. This side effect of cancer treatment is highly visible and often very distressing. Reportedly, eight percent of cancer patients refuse chemotherapy because they fear losing their hair.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet! - Everything you need to get started eating a healthful, satisfying diet is here - including eating and shopping guides, over 300 recipes, and an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid! Start your 14-day free trial now - and start eating anti-inflammatory today!

"Cold caps" to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy are widely used in Europe and are gaining popularity in the U.S. They apparently work because cold skin prevents hair follicles from efficiently absorbing the drugs - either by reducing blood flow to them or by temporarily stopping their growth. The devices seem to work for patients with breast cancer and other solid tumors, but not so well for those with blood cancers.

As yet-unpublished research from the University of California, San Francisco and other medical centers showed that most women who used a cold cap kept most of their hair, according to a report in the New York Times.

The process requires renting caps at a cost of about $600 per month from one of the companies that makes them. The caps must be kept frozen, either on dry ice or in a special medical freezer. (Home freezers aren't able to cool to the specified temperature – 22 degrees below zero.) Not all hospitals have the freezers needed. You can find a list of those that do at http://www.rapunzelproject.org/ColdCaps.aspx#ClinicalTrials, the website of The Rapunzel Project, an organization founded by two cancer survivors to raise money to purchase the special freezers for hospitals.

Women (or men) who decide to try the scalp freezing technique need to bring a friend, relative or helper to chemo sessions to change the cap every half hour. This
must be done in less than two minutes so that the scalp is exposed to room temperature for only a few seconds. The helper's job also includes making sure the patient drinks water during the chemotherapy session and keeping the patient warm during the first few minutes of cap application, which can be very uncomfortable. Patients need to keep using – and changing - the caps for a few hours after the chemotherapy infusion ends.

The average cost has been estimated at about $2,000 for the duration of chemotherapy. The cost isn't covered by insurance, but there have been reports of insurers reimbursing patients as much as the cost of a medically prescribed wig they might otherwise choose to buy. This runs about $1,500.

Patients who do use cold caps are advised to avoid blow-drying their hair, using heat treatments, coloring it or washing frequently during treatment.

Scalp cooling is expensive and inconvenient, but for motivated patients it can prevent the hair loss that so often comes with chemotherapy. I should add here that I have known a few cases of people who avoided hair loss during chemotherapy simply by using interactive guided imagery, a mind/body wellness therapy.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Source:

Nikolaos T. Georgopoulosa et al. "Use of in vitro human keratinocyte models to study the effect of cooling on chemotherapy drug-induced cytotoxici."Toxicology in Vitro, Volume 28, Issue 8, December 2014, doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2014.07.011.

Tara Parker-Pope, "Keeping Your Hair in Chemo," The New York Times, accessed March 26, 2015, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/09/keeping-your-hair-in-chemo/?_r=2

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Q
Preventing Hair Loss from Chemo?

I've read that cancer patients can keep their hair during chemotherapy by keeping their heads cold and that there are devices to use for this. I'm told they really work but don't understand how. 

A
Answer (Published 6/29/2015)

The reason hair comes out during chemotherapy is that the drugs that kill rapidly dividing cancer cells also kill rapidly dividing normal cells in the body, including those in hair follicles. Depending on the duration of chemotherapy and the specific drugs used, all or some of your hair may come out, or you may not lose any. This side effect of cancer treatment is highly visible and often very distressing. Reportedly, eight percent of cancer patients refuse chemotherapy because they fear losing their hair.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet! - Everything you need to get started eating a healthful, satisfying diet is here - including eating and shopping guides, over 300 recipes, and an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid! Start your 14-day free trial now - and start eating anti-inflammatory today!

"Cold caps" to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy are widely used in Europe and are gaining popularity in the U.S. They apparently work because cold skin prevents hair follicles from efficiently absorbing the drugs - either by reducing blood flow to them or by temporarily stopping their growth. The devices seem to work for patients with breast cancer and other solid tumors, but not so well for those with blood cancers.

As yet-unpublished research from the University of California, San Francisco and other medical centers showed that most women who used a cold cap kept most of their hair, according to a report in the New York Times.

The process requires renting caps at a cost of about $600 per month from one of the companies that makes them. The caps must be kept frozen, either on dry ice or in a special medical freezer. (Home freezers aren't able to cool to the specified temperature – 22 degrees below zero.) Not all hospitals have the freezers needed. You can find a list of those that do at http://www.rapunzelproject.org/ColdCaps.aspx#ClinicalTrials, the website of The Rapunzel Project, an organization founded by two cancer survivors to raise money to purchase the special freezers for hospitals.

Women (or men) who decide to try the scalp freezing technique need to bring a friend, relative or helper to chemo sessions to change the cap every half hour. This
must be done in less than two minutes so that the scalp is exposed to room temperature for only a few seconds. The helper's job also includes making sure the patient drinks water during the chemotherapy session and keeping the patient warm during the first few minutes of cap application, which can be very uncomfortable. Patients need to keep using – and changing - the caps for a few hours after the chemotherapy infusion ends.

The average cost has been estimated at about $2,000 for the duration of chemotherapy. The cost isn't covered by insurance, but there have been reports of insurers reimbursing patients as much as the cost of a medically prescribed wig they might otherwise choose to buy. This runs about $1,500.

Patients who do use cold caps are advised to avoid blow-drying their hair, using heat treatments, coloring it or washing frequently during treatment.

Scalp cooling is expensive and inconvenient, but for motivated patients it can prevent the hair loss that so often comes with chemotherapy. I should add here that I have known a few cases of people who avoided hair loss during chemotherapy simply by using interactive guided imagery, a mind/body wellness therapy.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Source:

Nikolaos T. Georgopoulosa et al. "Use of in vitro human keratinocyte models to study the effect of cooling on chemotherapy drug-induced cytotoxici."Toxicology in Vitro, Volume 28, Issue 8, December 2014, doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2014.07.011.

Tara Parker-Pope, "Keeping Your Hair in Chemo," The New York Times, accessed March 26, 2015, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/09/keeping-your-hair-in-chemo/?_r=2

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.