Posted by: Duke Raleigh Hospital | November 4, 2020

New Service Helps to Reduce Hair Loss for Cancer Patients

Duke Women’s Cancer Care Raleigh is now offering cancer patients a scalp cooling treatment to help reduce hair loss caused by certain chemotherapy drugs.

“Many patients with cancer fear losing their hair during chemotherapy,” said Vincent McCray, Health Center Administrator, Duke Cancer Institute of Wake County. “Scalp cooling may reduce the damage that some chemotherapy drugs cause to hair follicles and allow patients to keep more of their hair.”

Scalp cooling can reduce hair loss by lowering the temperature of the scalp before, during, and after chemotherapy. This can reduce the blood flow to the area around the hair follicles, which may prevent or reduce hair loss.

The service is offered at Duke Women’s Cancer Care Raleigh, 4101 Macon Pond Road, Raleigh. Patients who are beginning their first chemotherapy treatment that are interested in utilizing this service should speak with their healthcare provider.

How does scalp cooling work?

Scalp cooling may reduce the damage that chemotherapy causes to the hair follicles. It does this by lowering the temperature of the scalp before, during and after chemotherapy. This can reduce the blood flow to the area around the hair follicles, which may prevent or reduce hair loss.

You will bring your personal cooling cap (inner and outer cap) to your treatment. Based on the instructions in the cooling cap kit, place the cap on your head and connect it to the cooling and control unit. Thirty minutes before your chemotherapy treatment starts, you will begin scalp cooling to help lower your scalp temperature. You will continue wearing the cap during your treatment and up to 90 minutes after you finish treatment.

The temperature is controlled as the coolant moves through the cooling cap. Your scalp and the cooling cap should stay in direct contact to help control the temperature. If you need to use the restroom, your cap can be briefly disconnected from the cooling and control unit, while you keep the inner and outer cap on your head.

How will scalp cooling feel? 

People can react differently to the cold feeling while having scalp cooling. People may feel discomfort or pain from the cold in the first 10 to 15 minutes of treatment. This should go away as you get used to the cold.

Before and during the scalp cooling, deep breathing may help relax and calm you. Continue to breathe deeply throughout treatment.

You may want to dress warmly in layers even in the warm weather. If you find the first 20 minutes of scalp cooling hard to tolerate, let your nurse know. You may be given some medicine to help with the discomfort.

What are the side effects of scalp cooling?

You may have:

  • Chills or shivering
  • Headache
  • Neck or shoulder pain
  • Scalp pain

Please let your nurse know if you have any of these side effects.

Will my insurance pay for scalp cooling?

At this time, scalp cooling is not covered by most insurance companies. You are encouraged to check with your insurance company. You can expect to pay some out-of-pocket expense.

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