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Cold Caps for Chemo: Our Experiences

What is a Cold Cap? Cold caps are tightly fitting, helmets/hats filled with a cold gel or liquid

Picture of Abigail Rose

Abigail Rose

What is a Cold Cap?

Cold caps are tightly fitting, helmets/hats filled with a cold gel or liquid that you wear during chemotherapy treatments. The devices are aimed to help people keep some of their hair during chemotherapy treatments that cause hair loss.

How does the Cold Cap work?

They work by narrowing the blood vessels beneath the skin of the scalp, reducing the amount of chemotherapy that reaches the hair follicles. The cold also lowers you hair follicles’ metabolic rate, which causes the cells divide more slowly and consequently protecting them from the treatment.

Our Experience...

We recently had a lovely woman come in to see us for an NHS wig consultation after being diagnosed with cancer. Just like lots of our clients at Morgan’s who are beginning a chemotherapy treatment journey, this lady’s biggest fear was losing her hair, something I think we can all sympathise with. For so many people, their hair is their crown and glory. Whether we realise it or not, our hair is often a huge part of ourselves, and we don’t tend to realise its significance to us until it’s taken away from us. During our appointment she became rather emotional when we began to talk about what might happen with her hair. In our discussion, we talked about trying the cold cap. However, her response was slightly alarming. She explained that her oncologist had previously told her not to bother trying the cold cap, as it doesn’t work.

What?! Granted, it doesn’t work for everyone and not everyone can tolerate it, but it should always be an option for those who would like to try it. There are lots of cancer patients in this situation, with beautiful hair that they take huge pride in; how could you take away their option to try and save it?

This client wasn’t vain in any way shape or form, but she clearly took pride in her appearance and it’s natural to feel scared at the prospect of losing your hair; we probably all would! We always say to clients is that it’s not whilst you’re going through your treatment that you benefit most from the cold cap, it’s afterwards. A lot of women we have seen in our salon have kept up to 70% of their hair because of cold cap treatment, which is a massive amount. We are always honest with our clients about the fact that there may be patches without hair or overall thinning, it’s not a perfect solution, but it’s something.

It can take approximately 18 months for your hair to grow back into a recognisable, short style after treatment. However, it has been proven that if you persevere with the cold cap, your hair will grow back quicker. Again, it isn’t for everyone, but for this client; we knew it would really benefit her. We understand more than anyone, that your journey doesn’t end once treatment is over, and people live with the effects of treatment for many years after.

Some Advice:

Wrap Up! Grab your blankets, scarves and warm jumpers because although its only your head that’s getting the cold treatment, your whole body will feel the chill. 

Don’t be afraid to speak up about the fit of your cap! The cap will only work if it fits tightly and completely to your head shape. If it doesn’t feel tight enough; tell them.

Distract yourself! The first 15 minutes is the worst so it helps to have a distraction whether that be a book, your phone or chatting to someone.

 

Something you might find helpful: Macmillan have an online community page where people share their experiences from using the cold cap. Click Here!

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