Many patients say hair loss is one of the most devastating side effects of their treatment. But hair loss can often be reduced or prevented through scalp cooling. The chemotherapy department at Bupa Cromwell Hospital now offers the newest of these scalp-cooling technologies – DigniCap™.
DigniCap provides better results and is more comfortable than other common scalp-freezing methods. It has shown to help more than 80 percent of patients keep their hair in a way they did not feel they needed to wear a head covering or wig.
Cooling prevents hair loss during chemotherapy
Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells because they grow very rapidly. Hair follicles are also made up of rapidly growing cells, which is why some chemotherapy leads to hair loss. By lowering the temperature of the scalp, the blood vessels become smaller and less blood flows through them. This means less of the chemotherapy drugs can reach the hair follicle and the hair is not fully exposed to the effect of the drugs.
‘It enabled me to stay positive’
Among the first patients to receive DigniCap treatment at Bupa Cromwell Hospital was paediatric nurse Charlotte Reeves. “On the last day of my mother Penny’s radiotherapy treatment for breast cancer – just when our family thought we were coming through one dark period – I was diagnosed with breast cancer too. It was June 2011 and I was only 39 and had two children under five – it didn’t seem possible.”
One of the aspects of chemotherapy she dreaded most was losing her hair. “To me losing your hair is an obvious sign that you are having cancer treatment and I also didn’t want to scare the children with my appearance.” But Harriet Kennedy, the hospital’s breast care nurse consultant, explained that the Cromwell had a new type of scalp cooling system called which greatly increases your chances of keeping your hair.
“I can’t deny the cap was uncomfortable to wear; it looked like a water polo cap and contained a gel pack which gradually got colder and colder the longer it was on my head.” Charlotte explained. She advised other patients to, “take paracetamol and have a hot drink just before you put the cap on as that makes it less uncomfortable.”
Charlotte lost very little hair and even her hairdresser couldn’t believe she was having chemotherapy. “Keeping my hair is a small thing I know – but it enabled me stay positive during treatment and feel normal. It really helped me psychologically that I didn’t look physically unwell. I even managed to carry on working part time during my chemotherapy.”