Cancer is a disease that affects many different areas of your body, and sometimes requires very invasive and uncomfortable forms of treatment. One of the common types of cancer treatment is chemotherapy. If you’re familiar with this treatment, you might know that it often leads to hair loss — that is, until now.
At Hunterdon Oncology and Hematology, our team members treat many different types of cancer. Our practice consists of five specialists, all of whom are experts in oncology and hematology conditions and treatments. One of the very special treatments they offer is known as scalp cooling.
Why chemo causes hair loss
Your hair is something you might take for granted — that is, until you’re faced with cancer and chemotherapy. One of the best known side effects of this type of treatment is alopecia, or hair loss.
So why does chemotherapy lead to lost hair? You first have to understand that your hair is constantly growing, because it’s made of cells that multiply rapidly, which is why you need a haircut every few weeks.
Chemotherapy is a type of treatment that uses powerful drugs to attack cancer cells at the source. The problem is, the drugs also attack other cells that grow rapidly, including your hair cells.
After several treatments of chemotherapy, you may notice clumps of your hair falling out from your head. You may also lose hair in other areas of your body like your arms and legs.
How does scalp cooling therapy work?
In order for your hair to grow, you need an adequate blood supply to your hair follicles. The scalp cooling system uses scalp hypothermia to reduce and restrict blood flow to the hair follicles. This helps reduce hair loss, because the cells become less active without the proper amount of blood circulating to them, and therefore less attractive to the chemotherapy agents.
The cool temperatures also work to lessen the amount of chemotherapy medications that are able to reach the hair follicles. The medications are introduced into your bloodstream and run all throughout your body, wherever the blood takes them.
By reducing the amount of blood flow that gets to your scalp, you’re also reducing the amount of chemotherapy drugs that have access to your hair follicles. This, in turn, helps reduce the amount of hair you’ll lose during treatment.
The three stages of treatment
At Hunterdon Oncology and Hematology, our team uses the Paxman Scalp Cooling System to help you avoid hair loss during your treatment. This system works very well, and is implemented using three specific stages during chemotherapy. These stages include:
1. Pre-cooling stage
The first stage of the scalp cooling treatment starts 30 minutes before your chemotherapy treatment. However, if you have very thick hair, you’ll need to start the therapy 45 minutes before your chemo treatment.
2. Infusion cooling stage
The second phase of the scalp cooling treatment happens during your chemotherapy treatment. The length of this phase varies widely, as it depends on how long your chemotherapy session lasts.
3. Post-infusion cooling stage
The last stage of this therapy occurs after your chemotherapy session is finished. The cooling cap is left on for about 90-100 minutes after your treatment is finished. You may be moved to a different area after your treatment to undergo this last phase of the scalp cooling therapy.
After 90 or so minutes, the cap is removed. Before you get up and move around, you should allow your scalp temperature to adjust to the ambient temperature.
The great thing about our scalp cooling system is it’s very versatile — meaning you’re able to get up and walk around with it on, and even head to the restroom if you need to.
If you’re undergoing chemotherapy and are interested in learning more about our scalp cooling treatment, call our office in Flemington, New Jersey at 908-788-6461, or schedule an appointment online with one of our amazing doctors today.