Thursday, February 12, 2015


(Copyright 2015 TheBigCandMe)
I'm woefully behind in blogging. Six weeks into 2015 — and this is my first post.

I'm jumping in today to talk about a topic I have absolutely no experience with: Hair loss during chemo. 

Though I didn't have chemo, I feel the need to become knowledgable about a certain aspect of it. My good friend R. was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last week. She is still reeling from the diagnosis, still recovering from the (very) invasive surgery, still bereft about the thought of losing her cascading hair. 

So I did some research on Cold Caps...

For the uninitiated, Cold Caps are specially designed, tight-fitting caps containing gel or silicon chilled to minus 22 degrees Farenheit. The caps are worn by chemotherapy patients while they are in the chair receiving their chemo infusions. The premise? The icy cold reduces blood flow to the scalp — which in turn keeps the chemo from infiltrating the hair follicles and causing hair loss. The down side? Chemo is not reaching the hair follicles, which are awfully close to the brain — and for some oncologists or hospitals, that is too close for comfort. So they are not on board with the usage of Cold Caps.

That being said, thousands of women around the world have had success, including my Chicago-based friend Maria (also one of my Rubies and a fellow breast cancer blogger). Maria used Penguin Cold Caps during her chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer several years ago, and she kept her long and lovely brown hair. 

It isn't without effort, but it is worth the effort.

Last week, after I learned of my friend R.'s cancer diagnosis, I turned to the web to comb through what studies and articles I could find about Cold Caps. Specifically, I was looking for ovarian cancer patients who had used them. What I discovered was that they are most often used by breast cancer patients. I wondered why this was. 

My friend Maria knows a couple of ovarian cancer patients who used Cold Caps successfully — turns out they received the exact same chemotherapy as she did for breast cancer. So why are Cold Caps more popular among breast cancer chemotherapy patients?

Cold caps are still considered risky and have yet to receive FDA approval here in the states. They are commonly used by cancer patients in Europe; DigniCap is one popular cold cap brand there that has recently been in talks with the FDA . 

Because some cancers carry a higher risk of metastasizing to the brain (i.e., blood-related cancers), many want chemo to reach every cancer cell that could potentially spread. Hair follicles are very close to the brain, hence some doctors and patients flat-out resisting the use of Cold Caps. Studies and clinical trials are ongoing; it's definitely something to discuss with your oncologist. All that being said, it's exciting to think you might be able to keep your hair (and thus keep your cancer private). This appeals to a vast number of people — especially my friend R. 

As I gathered various links to articles, research and support, I realized I had a treasure trove of information which I needed to share with the cancer blogging community. Maybe it will help someone have the "please help me save my hair" conversation with their oncologist or nurse. If you've tried Cold Caps and had success (or didn't!), I'd love to hear from you. Anything to get this discussion rolling.

And now on to THE INFO.

(Copyright: Latisse)
COOL FINDING: One thing of great interest that I discovered while doing this research is that Latisse, the eyelash product touted by Brooke Shields as a way to get lush lashes, can actually help cancer patients keep their eyebrows and eyelashes. That was news to me! See below.

  • Dermatology Times (Latisse Shows Long-Term Success, According to Recent Study, Sept 1, 2012)
  • (Using Latisse for Chemotherapy-Induced Eyelash Loss, Nov 14, 2010)
(Copyright: Breast Cancer Won't Define Me)



    Have you used Cold Caps?
    Do you know anyone who has?
    Where they even mentioned as an option before you started chemo? 
    I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a note below!


    1. Renn, I think it is possible and safe to keep your hair while going through chemo, I am all for it... people lose more than enough and I think being able to keep their hair would help if just a little... this was a very informative article xox

      1. Thanks and I agree, Launna, if it's safe, I'm all for it! Anything to get the discussion going!

    2. Hi Renn, thank you for this post. I did not need chemo while going through breast cancer but I did while going through rectal cancer but because rectal cancer doesn't typically spread to the brain my chemo did not affect my hair but it has afterwards. I am experiencing major thinning and as grateful as I am to be NED it sure would be nice to have a full head of hair :)

      1. GM, you bring up a good point. This is something I've not seen addressed in my Cold Cap research thus-far: What about all the people getting chemo that does *not* cause hair loss? I'm sure if we polled them, many would say their hair has changed in some way. You've got me thinking! Thank you!

    3. Thank you RENN!!!

    4. Great post Renn! Thanks for sharing this information with others. Cold caps worked for me! I know tons of women that have used them with success. If you are faced with chemo, check it out! :)

      1. Maria, you are my go-to person on all things Cold Caps! I know they can be somewhat controversial, but they are such a godsend for so many women, and you are the perfect example of that. That's why we have to keep the conversation going! Thanks for commenting.

    5. HI Renn, long time no see! I did a news story on the Cold Caps last year; many women are having huge success with them. My website, is now mostly healthy recipes and food stuff, less cancer. Check it out! Anyway here is a link to the News Story

      1. Valerie! So good to hear from you, and thanks for sharing the link to your news story. I just watched the video and it's really helpful to see the Cold Caps in use. It's also great to see/hear from other women who have had success with it. PS You did a great job!

        The friend for whom I compiled the info for this post just started chemo yesterday. She decided not to go the cold cap route — the process of it was too much for her to deal with. Hopefully one day soon the FDA will approve Cold Caps and there will be support for the use of them in infusion rooms so patients don’t feel so overwhelmed.

        Again, thanks for sharing your news clip!

    6. It's a very helpful article, in fact when it comes to health; there is nothing more important than managing to eat healthy food and doing exercise regularly.


    Your comments are encouraging — and encouraged!