Scalp Cooling Therapy; a Ray of Hope to Reduce Chemotherapy-Related Hair Loss
Contrasting the pervasive fact that cancer cells are the primary target of chemotherapeutic drugs, the general tendency of these drugs is to attack all the fast-growing cells in the body. Hair follicle cells are one such example of fast-growing cells that are targeted by these chemotherapy drugs. The death of hair follicles leads to hair loss; which is also called as ‘Alopecia’ or ‘Baldness’ in simpler terms. Hair loss due to chemotherapy is one of the most common and traumatic side effects and bears a huge social stigma, especially for the female cancer patients in India.
Here are some facts about hair loss due to cancer chemotherapy.
- Studies show that almost 65% of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy experience hair loss.
- Some people may just experience thinning of hair, whereas others may see their hair falling out in clumps.
- Not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss.
- Dosage of drugs may also influence hair loss.
- Often the patients’ social life and appearance is significantly affected due to hair loss, leading to psychological effects like depression, guilt, fear, etc.
- Through the years, many methods like wigs, ice caps or tight bands have been tried unsuccessfully, to reduce hair loss due to chemotherapy or its traumatic mental effects.
What is Scalp-cooling techniques and its benefits?
Scalp cooling is a simple technique that reduces hair loss caused by certain chemotherapeutic drugs. It is a machine that has a cooling cap. Chemotherapy patients are made to wear this cap while the chemotherapy is being administered to patients. Cooling cap cools the scalp to an extent that the heat of chemotherapy does not reach and affect hair follicles. In the process, hair loss is prevented with 70%-80% efficacy.
Here are some frequently asked questions about scalp-cooling techniques.
- How does it work?
The principle is to cool the scalp to around 20 degrees celsius before, during and after receiving chemotherapy. Research showed that cooling the scalp can reduce the uptake of the drug by the hair follicle by a minimum of 4-fold; thereby reducing the hair loss.
- How long is each session?
Every time a person receives chemotherapy; they need to undergo a scalp cooling session. The approximate time would be 1 hour before chemotherapy begins, throughout the session of chemotherapy and 1 hour after chemotherapy is over.
- Is scalp cooling painful?
Most patients do not experience any pain or discomfort once they are accustomed to the cold. Relaxation techniques, dressing in warm clothes or drinking warm liquids can help reduce discomfort during the scalp cooling sessions.
- Is this therapy recommended by cancer associations?
Most national and international cancer associations and regulatory bodies recommend scalp cooling techniques since these can benefit patients from developing chemotherapy associated alopecia or hair loss and help reduce the social stigma associated with it.
To summarise, scalp cooling technique is increasingly being used all over the world to circumvent the stigma of hair loss associated with chemotherapy. The treatment is highly effective and recommended by national and international guidelines to improve cancer care and quality of lives of patients impacted by cancer.
Mumbai Oncocare Centre, the largest chain of cancer daycares in India; became the first cancer care organization to introduce Scalp Cooling technology in Mumbai in the year 2018. Since then, MOC has installed this technology at 4 of their centres with impressive results in hair loss reduction while patients are on chemotherapy for cancer treatment.
The recently introduced Scalp Cooling machine at MOC Kolhapur is a first of its kind technology in entire Kolhapur district, Sangli, Satara, entire Konkan region and Belgaum; is another noble attempt of MOC to offer quality of life to cancer patients.
Dr. Akshay Shivchhand
MD DM DNB ECMO
Consultant Cancer Physician
97699 60092 / 97699 60093
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