Losing your hair is among the most stressful side-effects of breast-cancer treatments, so sparing patients the additional psychological stress would help them to a speedier recovery.
The basic technique is not new, but at the University of Hanover medical school, a new cold-cap design in silicone is performing impressively during a one-year trial.
“We were highly sceptical but have been amazed by the results,” said Tjoung-Won Park-Simon, deputy director of the women’s treatment wing, where 19 breast cancer patients so far have completed chemotherapy using the device.
The tightly fitting caps allow sensor-controlled cooling of the scalp to 3 to 5 degrees Celsius. This constricts the local blood vessels beneath the skin and reduces the amount of chemotherapy medicine reaching the hair follicles.
With less exposure to the drugs, the hair is less likely to fall out. Sabine G, a 48-year-old patient diagnosed with breast cancer last September, said she immediately wanted to try the process.
“The first question in this situation of course is, will I be okay?
But for me the second one was, can I keep my hair?”
Apart from some headaches caused by the low temperature, no other negative effects of using the caps have yet been determined.