It’s More Than Just Hair: Chemo and Cold-Capping

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It’s October again, so on top of Halloween decorations and seasonal lattes, you’re doubtlessly seeing splashes of pink everywhere in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

About 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer at some point in her life, and because of efforts like Breast Cancer Awareness Month, huge medical advances have been made, especially in the last 20 years. But part of the cancer experience that isn’t given as much attention is the emotional recovery from this disease, and how much of a struggle it is to get back to your former self.

The Gift of Feeling Normal

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, your normal life stops, your priorities change, and your world suddenly revolves around cancer. Your old identity kind of goes away for a while, and you become, first and foremost, a cancer patient.

It’s a unique experience, in that it’s one of the most intensely personal things you’ll ever go through, yet it’s oddly public because the physical toll is visible. And one of the most recognizable symptoms of cancer treatment is the hair loss that comes with chemo.

In the past, hair loss was an unavoidable part of the chemo process, but now, some cancer patients have a new option to try and hang on to more of their hair during treatment: cold-capping.

Photo Courtesy of Dignicap

The basic concept is to bring the temperature of the scalp down below freezing during chemo infusions to prevent the chemicals from affecting the follicles (see our cold-capping blog for a more thorough explanation and click here to donate).

Cold-capping pairs a specialized cap connected to a freezing unit to chill the scalp to the correct temperature to prevent the chemicals from entering the follicles (think: ice on the roots). Cold-cap therapy is administered alongside infusion, so that patients get their caps first, then their chemotherapy infusion, and keep the cap on until after the chemo is done.

It’s been FDA approved for some breast cancers for a couple of years in the U.S., and more recently, two systems were approved for expanded use, including other solid-tumor cancers, expanding the potential to help millions of people per year keep more hair during cancer treatment.

“But It’s Just Hair”

Let’s be real. If it were “just hair,” you wouldn’t spend time at a salon. Hair is a part of our identity, and we style it to present who we are to the world every day.

If you’re at the point in your cancer journey where you’re empowered by going hair-free, we fully support you and we have some wonderful stylists at Scott J. who can help you with the big shave.

But for some people, giving them the option to keep their hair is like giving them the gift of privacy. It’s being able to greet people on the street or in the boardroom as your normal self, and it’s the ability to choose if and when you have the cancer conversation with everyone you meet.

It might seem vain to some, but it’s so much more than just hair. We understand, and it is our wish that everyone who wants to cold-cap is able to. So we’re partnering with Hair To Stay.

Although cold-capping has been around in Europe and Canada for decades, it’s relatively new to the U.S. And despite recent FDA approval of some cold-capping systems, scalp cooling isn’t covered by most health insurance policies. Costs for cold-capping can run well over $1,000, which makes it unaffordable for a lot of women who would want it.

Photo Courtesy of Dignicap

Hair To Stay is the first and only national non-profit dedicated to increasing access to scalp cooling for patients with financial need. In addition to providing financial assistance, Hair To Stay works to spread the word about cold-capping among patients and medical professionals alike. They’re an amazing organization and we’re proud to partner with them.

We encourage you to donate to Hair To Stay and directly help someone going through cancer treatment retain that part of herself, when so much of her world has just changed.

Click here to donate to Hair To Stay.

If you know someone who would like more information or who would like to apply for a subsidy, click here.