The cold cap has liquid coolant running through it. And the idea is to chill the roots of your hair. It's covered by a second cap. And Lisa Nelson, who is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, hopes the cold cap saves her hair.
"The second you lose your hair you get all the looks. Everybody knows you're going through chemo. Everybody knows you're sick and there's no functioning in a normal way anymore without the stigma people put on you," Nelson said.
She's in the first U.S. study lead by Dr. Julie Nangia of Baylor College of Medicine. She says chilling the scalp causes blood vessels to constrict and helps prevent the chemotherapy from attacking the cells in the hair roots.
Dr. Nangia said, "Four European countries, Australia, Canada, they actually use this device a lot. And they've had success anywhere between 50-75 percent of people can keep their hair."
How does it feel?
"It doesn't hurt at all. No pain. It's just cold," said Nelson.
Her scalp is kept at 64 degrees before and during the chemotherapy.
Our own Christi Myers tried the cap too.
"At first I couldn't feel the cold. But within 30 seconds, my head started getting cold. And remember, patients may wear the cold cap for three to four hours," she said.
It's being tested on breast cancer patients first, because the chemotherapy used is known for causing hair loss. Dr. Nangia said, "Even if a quarter of women keep their hair that's a success because right now 100 percent of women lose their hair."
Dr. Nangia does expect women's hair to thin. But she believes they would still be able to avoid the need for a wig. And Lisa Nelson says that's enough to make her willing to chill for a cause.
"I will continue to do it. If I could take it home and do it every day and help, laugh do it I'd do it."
She has to wear the cold cap for all of her chemotherapy treatments and it will soon be obvious whether it works and saves her hair.
If the study results are as good as they expect, Dr. Nangia says the treatment could be used for patients with other types of cancer that involve solid tumors. Her hope is that one day the treatments would be available at a small additional cost, a cost that patients could afford.
Researchers from the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine are recruiting newly diagnosed breast cancer patients to participate in a new clinical trial testing the safety and efficacy of an investigational scalp cooling device to prevent hair loss associated with chemotherapy.
Participants interested in enrolling in the study must:
Chemotherapy must be planned for at least four cycles of full-dose anthracycline or taxane based chemotherapy regimen, defined as one of the following chemotherapy regimens:
Study participants will be followed until 2-4 weeks after completion of chemotherapy when the final alopecia (hair loss) assessment will occur and the questionnaires will be administered. For more information or to enroll, please call Afife Batarse at 713-798-1911.
Participants will be followed post-study for 5 years during routine clinic follow-up for time to first recurrence, overall survival, and site of first recurrence and incidence of isolated scalp metastasis. Find Christi on Facebook at ABC13-Christi Myers or on Twitter at @ChristiMyers13