For some cancer patients, hair loss is an immediately visible and emotional aspect of going through chemotherapy. This outward sign lets strangers and loved ones alike know about your condition. Because chemotherapy works by attacking rapidly dividing cells, hair follicles are typically just another casualty — until now. In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new scalp-cooling “chemo cap” device specifically designed for cancer patients. And this new chemo cap may help certain individuals keep some (or most!) of their hair during active cancer treatment.
How the Chemo Cap Cooling System Works
The DigniCap Cooling System is designed to reduce the frequency and severity of chemotherapy-induced hair loss. Here’s how it works: You put the first computer-controlled chemo cap on, which circulates liquid to cool your scalp down. Your nurse then puts a second insulating neoprene cap over that first one to prevent any cooling power from escaping.
The reason this cooling process helps mitigate hair loss is that it constricts your scalp’s blood vessels. By restricting how much chemotherapy medication reaches your scalp’s cells and follicles, it makes hair less likely to fall out. Since the chemo cap chills down to between -15F and -40F, your hair follicles’ cellular activity slows down dramatically. In other words, your treatment affects hair cells less because they aren’t as active while you’re wearing the chemo cap.
Researchers observed 122 women with either Stage 1 or Stage II breast cancer who wore the chemo cap during treatment. All subjects’ chemotherapy regimens included drugs specifically associated with hair loss, such as Taxotere. More than 66% of the chemo cap study’s subjects reported losing less than half of their scalp hair! This particular study led the FDA to approve the chemo cap for wider use since researchers provided valid scientific evidence.
While the DigniCap may not work for every chemotherapy patient, it’s proven effective under multiple regimens.
Why Reducing Hair Loss Matters
For many cancer patients (especially women), hair loss can be one of the most traumatic aspects of their diagnosis. Living with this visible reminder can be difficult for many, even after recovering begins. Dr. Julie Nangia, assistant professor at Baylor’s Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, concurs.
“Hair loss takes a tremendous toll on the patient’s body image, and they no longer have the anonymity of hiding the disease; everyone can see that they’re sick,” says Dr. Nangia. She adds that for years, physicians searched for some way to prevent or reduce chemotherapy-induced hair loss. But due to the combined complexity involving different cancer types and chemotherapy regimens, a truly effective solution eluded them. Hopefully, the DigniCap can change that for future chemo patients.
Chemo Cap vs. Taxotere: Is It Effective?
The DigniCap device may be ideal for patients whose regimens include the popular chemotherapy drug Taxotere. Sanofi long downplayed Taxotere’s permanent hair loss side effect, saying that “hair generally grows back” on its warning label. But according to the 2005 GEICAM 9805 trials study, 9.2% of Taxotere patients reported permanent and irreversible hair loss.
With this newly FDA-approved chemo cap treatment, oncologists are hoping many patients can avoid the psychological trauma that baldness brings. Unfortunately, this revolutionary chemo cap technology came too late for those already suffering from Taxotere-induced alopecia.
What You Can Do If Taxotere Caused Permanent Hair Loss
If you took Taxotere and experienced permanent hair loss after completing chemotherapy, you may be entitled to a cash settlement. Since Sanofi downplayed the drug’s side effects, injured individuals are filing failure to warn claims against the company seeking compensation. To speak with an experienced local advocate about your compensation options, fill out your free Taxotere evaluation form online now.