National charity Walk the Walk has provided a number of hospitals in Leicester with a grant of a quarter of a million pounds to provide cancer patients with special caps designed to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy. The charity hopes that the hospitals will use the money to buy 15 of the caps, which should help 30 chemotherapy patients in total.
How do hair-saving caps work?
Normally a good flow of blood to the scalp enables nutrients to be delivered to hair follicles, thereby facilitating hair growth. However the medications used in chemotherapy usually cause hair to fall out, leaving many patients with the dilemma of going bald, or wearing a hairpiece to disguise the loss.
The special caps funded by Walk the Walk are designed to cool the patient’s scalp before, during and after their chemotherapy treatment. In theory, reducing the temperature of the scalp restricts blood flow, thereby limiting the extent to which chemotherapy drugs can attack the hair follicles.
An established solution
The idea of cooling scalps to reduce hair loss in chemotherapy patients is not, in itself, a new idea. Many hospitals already use less sophisticated cooling caps that are kept in the freezer, but these tend only to be offered to women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, and are notoriously uncomfortable to use.
The newer caps suggested by Walk the Walk use a special refrigeration unit that circulates a special coolant through pipes in the cap. The coolant is chilled to -4 degrees Centigrade, staying much cooler and helping to reduce blood flow for much longer than traditional treatment caps.
Honor Gascoigne is a former cancer patient who used the older style of hair-saving caps. She is now Macmillan’s project manager for Leicester’s hospitals and believes the new caps will be more effective for patients: “I used the caps we have which are cooled in a freezer,” she said.
“It was so cold and it was really uncomfortable and in the end I decided I couldn’t carry on with it. You have to have about three different caps each time but with this new system there is an even temperature and it will be much more comfortable for patients.”
Can scalp cooling treat other causes of hair loss?
Men and women who are experiencing hair loss as a result of pattern baldness, Alopecia or another condition may be tempted to try scalp cooling technologies in the hope that it will prevent further hair shedding. Unlike chemotherapy patients however, those losing hair as a result of a hair loss condition need a steady and consistent flow of blood to the scalp in order for their hair to receive the chemical building blocks required for continued growth. Many of the hair loss treatments currently in use are specifically designed to increase blood flow to the scalp, thereby improving growth and hair retention.
For this reason, men and women with hair loss that is not due to a cause other than chemotherapy are advised against experimenting with scalp cooling technologies. Doing so could actually hinder their hair growth potential, rather than help it.
The Belgravia Centre
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our online diagnostic form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our hair loss success stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 0800 077 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.