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Healthy You

Scalp Hypothermia Minimizes Hair Loss During Cancer Treatment

Wednesday, August 28, 2019 2:42 PM

A cancer diagnosis is often met with the shock and fear of what comes next. Beyond fighting the disease itself, many patients—especially women—worry about potentially losing their hair during chemotherapy treatment. NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore) Kellogg Cancer Center is working to ease that distress with new technology in a special cooling cap. It can help minimize the often traumatic side effect of hair loss for many patients.

Philippa Djemal

Nothing Prepares You
Philippa Djemal of Highland Park received the distressing news that she had breast cancer shortly after having her first mammogram at age 40. “I had no family history, I eat a healthy diet and live a healthy lifestyle,” noted Djemal, the mother of daughters ages six and eight. “It was tough to get my head around the news,” she added, “and then to learn that I needed chemotherapy and might lose my hair added an extra layer of concern.”

Djemal’s treatment plan developed by Kellogg Cancer Center Oncologist Teresa Law, MD, included six rounds of chemotherapy. It was accompanied by the Paxman cooling cap system, which she wore 30 minutes before chemo and kept it on an additional 90 minutes after each treatment. The result was impressive, leaving Djemal with about 75 percent of her hair.

“The chemo was rough, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” she recalled. “But still having my hair let me keep my identity, and it wasn’t a reminder to my girls on a daily basis that I was sick.” Djemal, who had a lumpectomy after her chemo treatment, was declared cancer-free this spring.

Impressive Outcomes
“We couldn’t have asked for a better response to the breast cancer treatment and Philippa’s prognosis is excellent,” explained Dr. Law, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. She was able to offer Djemal the scalp-cooling option based on the type of chemotherapy used to treat her cancer, as not all types respond to the technology.

The cap works by reducing the temperature of the scalp, which reduces the blood flow to hair follicles that may prevent or minimize hair loss.

“Self-image is very important to women of all ages, and it’s exciting that we now have something like this to offer patients going through this difficult process,” said Nurse Fariba Behinain, RN, part of Djemal’s cancer care team.

“Everyone at NorthShore was fantastic and went out of their way to make me feel as comfortable as possible,” said Djemal. “With cancer behind me, I’m looking forward to getting back to my regular life!”