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Transforming the Cancer Journey with Cold Capping

Updated: Apr 12


An patient learning about a new diagnosis of cancer.

Chemotherapy-Induced Alopecia (CIA) has been documented in numerous studies as one of the most distressing consequences of chemotherapy. While scientific and medical advancements have significantly improved the management of various chemotherapy side effects like nausea/vomiting, constipation, pain, and neuropathy, the impact of hair loss, often regarded by patients as profoundly traumatic, is frequently overlooked. (Trueb, 2009) It is assumed by many that hair loss is an inevitable outcome of undergoing chemotherapy. Some patients are fully prepared for the hair loss and treat it as a symbol of being a cancer warrior, but research has shown that for most, it negatively influences a patient's self-perception of appearance, body image, sexuality, and self-esteem. This ultimately leads to social isolation, anxiety, and depression that can affect the patient long term, even after they have experienced hair regrowth post chemotherapy treatment. (Choi et al., 2014)


With all this research looking into the negative effects of CIA, why has no solution been found on how to negate these effects? What if we told you there IS a solution for certain patients? - and that this solution has been around for well over a decade with research proving its efficacy in decreasing hair loss during chemotherapy? Scalp cooling is the solution that has been proven to help numerous cancer patients in battling the devastating effects of CIA. 



History of scalp cooling

Scalp cooling was first pioneered in the UK in 1995 by Glenn Paxman, a husband who saw first hand the traumatic effects of CIA on his wife as she battled cancer while caring for her young family of four children. (About Paxman Scalp Cooling, n.d.) Glenn used his knowledge and expertise in the refrigeration industry to develop a scalp cooling system that helps for CIA. (About Us - Coldcap, n.d.) Since his initial development, many studies have been conducted to prove the efficacy of scalp cooling leading to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearing the use of scalp cooling systems for patients with solid tumors in 2015. (NCI Staff, 2017) 



How does Scalp cooling/Cold capping work?

Scalp cooling and cold capping are terms often used interchangeably, although they specifically refer to the distinct methods of cooling the scalp. The term "scalp cooling" (SC) is typically used to describe the use of the mechanical scalp cooling machines, such as those found in certain hospitals like Paxman or Dignicap. “Cold capping" (CC) is generally used to refer to the manual application of a series of cold caps rotated through a cooler of dry ice to achieve the desired scalp temperature. The goal of both methods is to cool the scalp and hair follicles to the desired temperature of at least 3℃, This has been found to be the optimal temperature for hair retention. (Cold Caps | Conditions & Treatments, n.d.) At this low temperature, the blood vessels in the scalp are constricted, as well as putting the hair follicles in a dormant/sleepy state. The vasoconstriction of the blood vessels and sleepy state of the hair follicles decreases the amount of chemotherapy absorbed into the hair follicles, thus decreasing damage and increasing hair retention. (Uscher, 2023)



Left photo - Paxman Mechanical System(Emerson Health, 2018), Right photo - Cold Crowns Manual Cold Capping System


Impact on patient experiences

Cold capping emerges as a crucial and transformative option for cancer patients, significantly influencing their self-perception and long-term mental health. The profound impact of CIA on a patient's identity and well-being is often underestimated. It is essential to recognize that the desire to retain one's hair during chemotherapy is not rooted in vanity, but rather in the deeply personal and psychological significance that hair holds for individuals. While some patients may embrace hair loss as a symbol of resilience, others may find solace and empowerment in preserving their locks. Cold capping provides a valuable alternative for those who might be grappling with the emotional toll of their diagnosis or seeking privacy in facing the challenges of cancer treatment. By offering the choice to mitigate the visible effects of chemotherapy, cold capping empowers individuals to maintain a sense of normalcy, contributing to improved self-esteem and a positive outlook throughout their cancer journey.


Two friends supporting friend newly diagnosed with cancer and losing all her hair

Chemotherapy-Induced Alopecia remains a distressing consequence of chemotherapy, often overshadowed by advancements in managing other side effects. Despite the assumption that hair loss is an inevitable outcome, research reveals its profound impact on a patient's self-perception and mental well-being. Social isolation, anxiety, and depression persist long after hair regrowth, emphasizing the need for effective solutions.


Surprisingly, amidst the extensive research on CIA, a solution has emerged for solid tumor patients in the form of scalp cooling. Pioneered by Glenn Paxman in 1995, this method has evolved and gained FDA clearance in 2015. Scalp cooling, whether through mechanical machines like Paxman or manual cold capping, aims to cool the scalp and hair follicles to a specific temperature, minimizing chemotherapy absorption and promoting hair retention. This established technique offers hope and relief for countless cancer patients facing the devastating effects of CIA. The history and effectiveness of scalp cooling underscore its significance in improving the quality of life for those undergoing chemotherapy.


References

About Paxman Scalp Cooling. (n.d.). Paxman Scalp Cooling. Retrieved February 7, 2024, from https://paxmanscalpcooling.com/about/


About us - Coldcap. (n.d.). Cold Cap. Retrieved February 7, 2024, from https://coldcap.com/about-us/


Calder, M. (n.d.). Join Women United. United Way East Ontario. Retrieved February 7, 2024, from https://www.unitedwayeo.ca/get-involved/women-united/


Choi, E. K., Kim, I.-R., Chang, O., Kang, D., Nam, S.-J., Lee, J. E., Lee, S. K., Im, Y. H., Park, Y. H., Yang, J. H., & Cho, J. (2014, Oct 23). Impact of chemotherapy-induced alopecia distress on body image, psychosocial well-being and depression in breast cancer patients. Psychooncology, 1103-10. 10.1002/pon.3531


Cold Caps | Conditions & Treatments. (n.d.). UCSF Health. Retrieved February 7, 2024, from https://www.ucsfhealth.org/treatments/cold-caps-to-reduce-chemo-hair-loss


Emerson Health. (2018, May 28). Paxman scalp cooling system helps cancer patients reduce hair loss | Emerson Health. Emerson Hospital. Retrieved February 7, 2024, from https://www.emersonhospital.org/articles/2018_paxman-scalp-cooling-system


NCI Staff. (2017, July 21). Cooling Cap to Reduce Chemotherapy-Related Hair Loss. National Cancer Institute. Retrieved February 7, 2024, from https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2017/fda-cooling-cap-chemotherapy


Trueb, R. M. (2009, March). Seminars in cutaneous medicine and surgery. Chemotherapy-Induced Alopecia. Retrieved February 7, 2024, from https://cdn.mdedge.com/files/s3fs-public/issues/articles/vol28_i1_Chemo-Induced_Alopecia.pdf


Uscher, J. (2023, October 12). Cold Caps and Scalp Cooling Systems. Breastcancer.org. Retrieved February 7, 2024, from https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment-side-effects/hair-loss/cold-caps-scalp-cooling

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