Scalp Cooling Helps Prevent Hair Loss During Chemotherapy (Video)

Hair loss is a side effect of chemotherapy that can have a significant impact on the psychological aspect of a breast cancer patient’s treatment and recovery.

The scalp-cooling system is a method of cooling the scalp down to decrease the chances of hair loss during chemotherapy. The “cooling cap” decreases the absorption of chemotherapy in the hair follicles because the cold temperature constricts blood flow through the follicles, helping to minimize hair loss.

(Video: The Baptist Health News Team hears from the first patient at Miami Cancer Institute to receive scalp cooling treatment during chemotherapy and the nurse leaders who helped implement it. Video by George Carvalho). 

“Patients are very happy and excited to hear that scalp cooling is being offered at Miami Cancer Institute and that it will decrease the hair loss side effect of their treatment,” said Joy Oronos, R.N., director of clinical operations, infusion center, at Miami Cancer Institute. “A lot of women in South Florida have been waiting for it.”

For Laura Klein, the first patient to undergo cooling cap therapy at Miami Cancer Institute, the experience was not as uncomfortable as she thought it might be.

“It’s definitely cold; the cap is snug, but it’s fine,” Ms. Klein said during her first treatment. “I’m glad I picked coming to Miami Cancer Institute for this cooling system. Everyone here has been wonderful, so caring, helpful and informative. ”

Patients can expect to experience pre-cooling, which is about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the thickness of their hair. And depending on the regimen of the treatment they’re receiving, the post-cooling varies between 20 minutes to one hour and a half after the chemotherapy is given.

To prepare for the treatment, patients watch a video at home and practice deep breathing exercises which helps them relax during treatment.

“The more relaxed the patient is, the better they are at tolerating the treatment,” Ms. Oronos said.

Side effects of cool-cap therapy can include nausea, dizziness and headaches, for which there are medications available to help relieve.

“While the concept of cooling systems have been around for many years, we now have FDA-approved devices that have shown consistent cooling and the evidence that they are effective,” said Cathy Ollom, R.N., an advanced oncology clinical nurse specialist (AOCNS) at Miami Cancer Institute who educates patients and nurses about new treatment practices.

Initially approved to be used with only certain types of breast cancer treatments, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has opened up the approval process to use it with other cancers.

“It’s our goal to treat the whole patient – you have to treat the body, mind and spirit,” Ms. Ollom said. “The emotional impact of losing one’s hair during cancer can be tremendous. Body concept and self-image are very much part of the mind and the spirit.”

The Baptist Health News Team was there to capture the first scalp cooling treatment at Miami Cancer Institute. Watch the video now.

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