Cooling caps appeal to reduce chemo patients' hair loss

Woman wearing a scalp cooling cap

The East and North Hertfordshire Hospitals' Charity wants to raise £44,000 to buy more scalp cooling caps for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy - Credit: East and North Hertfordshire Hospitals' Charity

A fundraising appeal has been launched by the East and North Hertfordshire Hospitals’ Charity for a new set of scalp cooling caps to help more cancer patients keep more of their hair while undergoing chemotherapy.

Hair loss can be one of the most upsetting side effects of chemotherapy. It is the most visible sign a person is having treatment for cancer and can affect self-confidence and sense of identity.

Scalp cooling caps have been shown to reduce hair loss, with 50 per cent of patients retaining at least half of their hair.

The caps work by narrowing the blood vessels beneath the skin of the scalp, reducing the amount of chemotherapy medicine that reaches the hair follicles. With less chemotherapy medicine in the follicles, the hair is less likely to fall out.

The cold also slows down cell division in the hair follicles, which means they are less affected by the chemotherapy medicine.

Kim Kelly, 54, had treatment for ovarian cancer at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in Northwood in December and is supporting the appeal by the East and North Hertfordshire Hospitals’ Charity to raise the £44,000 needed to buy two dual patient scalp cooler systems with 15 different sized caps.

She said: “When I was told I needed chemotherapy, I had preconceived ideas of what would happen to me physically.

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“I was ready to cut off my shoulder-length hair and embrace my hair loss. I then spoke to a friend who told me about the scalp cooling system. She had used the cold caps during her treatment for breast cancer and had kept most of her hair.

“When I started my treatment I was fortunate the scalp cooling cap was offered to me, but warned about how it feels. It's like experiencing brain freeze, as the temperature of the cold cap is -5°C. After the first 15 minutes it becomes more bearable.

“I am so happy I used the cold cap as I did keep most of my hair. I didn't realise how much this helped me psychologically.

“At present, Mount Vernon Cancer Centre has six machines for this, and I would love for more people to have the option of using a cold cap because it really does make a difference to your wellbeing.”

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