A new FDA-approved method of preventing hair loss from chemotherapy for breast cancer treatments, the DigniCap, uses a cooling system inside of a device worn like a helmet. Losing hair during chemotherapy treatments can be as damaging psychologically as the cancer is physically. Doctor Hope Rugo of the University of California, San Francisco commented on how the DigniCap will be helpful to women dealing with breast cancer treatments.
“It’s such a marker for women — for work, for their families, for their children — that something’s wrong with them. You get just a few months of chemotherapy, and it takes more than a year for your hair to recover.”
The idea to cool the scalp with close to freezing temperature in order to stop hair from falling out from chemotherapy is an idea that is not new. By keeping the hair at close to freezing, blood flow is limited to the hair follicles. Since the medications given for chemotherapy is in the bloodstream, the medication will not be as potent to the parts of the body where blood flow is limited.
Versions of items similar to the DigniCap are often used by women who are in chemotherapy treatment. These other versions are not FDA approved, though. The DigniCap, made by Sweden’s Dignitana AB, will be leasing out their devices to cancer centers around the country. It is unknown if the cancer centers will no longer allow patients to use devices they bring in for themselves that are not FDA approved.
How does the DigniCap work?
A patient who is about to receive a chemo treatment puts on the DigniCap about 30 minutes before the treatment is set to start. The DigniCap is then hooked up to a machine that starts the cooling process. The cooling machine slowly allows the DigniCap to chill the head of the patient. The cooling is designed to stay just barely above the freezing point. Once the scalp of the patient is numb, the chemotherapy begins. The patient stays connected to the DigniCap during the chemo treatment and up to an hour and a half after the chemo has ended.
FDA just approved DigniCap, a cooling system to chill patients’ scalps to reduce the hair loss from chemo treatment https://t.co/Vetpyzwfng
— Annie Shum (@insightspedia) December 9, 2015
Doctor Rugo, along with other oncologists, studied 122 women who used the DigniCap during their chemotherapy treatment for early-stage breast cancer. In the study, 66 percent of the women were able to keep more than half of their hair. Deanna King was a participant in the DigniCap study. King was able to keep 80 percent of her hair. King stated that she was looking for a job when she started chemotherapy for her breast cancer. Being able to keep most of her hair gave her the confidence to keep going out to job interviews.
“People are frightened of people that look sick. It made the experience a little less traumatic.”
During the study by the FDA for approval, DigniCap wearers reported very few side effects. The most common of the reported side-effects were headaches induced by the cold temperature, areas of discomfort in the neck and shoulders, the feeling of chills, and pain induced from wearing the DigniCap for an extended period of time.
Cancer centers are still crunching the numbers in order to determine how much it will cost chemo patients to use the DigniCap. The cost for the patient will vary depending on how many rounds of chemo treatment that the patient will be receiving. The estimate right now is that the cost of the DigniCap will be between $1,500 and $3,000. It has not been said if insurance will cover or assist in paying for this cost.
[Image Via AP Photo/Eric Risberg]