Cool it and save your hair if you accept chemotherapy

Dr. Weeks’ Comment: Innovation comes slowly to medicine. Many years ago, I learned about an innovative safe and more effective form of chemotherapy – Insulin potentiated Chemotherapy (IPT) and I became one of four doctors in American certified to train other doctors in this modality. During those amazing years of treating many people with low dose targeted chemotherapy which created few if any side effects, we recommended people use cooling caps during chemo to restrict blood flow to the brain thereby sparing the hair from the toxic effect of chemotherapy. Now the research bears out our idea!

Scalp Cooling Safe, Long-term European Data Show
Ingrid Hein
May 03, 2016

For cancer patients undergoing alopecia-inducing chemotherapy, scalp cooling to reduce hair loss is safe, according to new research.

“This is a treatment that women going into chemotherapy treatment need to know about,” said Mikel Ross, RN, BSN, from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. “Patients are asking for this.”

The technique, which has been used in Europe since the 1970s, was only approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in December 2015, but doctors and nurses in the United States have yet to embrace it.

They are holding on to a 40-year-old belief that the treatment is unsafe and that it can result in scalp metastases, Ross told Medscape Medical News. “That has to change.”

The issue of hair loss during chemotherapy should not be taken lightly. “More than 75% of women see hair loss as the most feared side effect of chemotherapy,” he said, citing one study in which 10% of patients said they would consider refusing chemotherapy or consider a less effective treatment to avoid hair loss.

Although scalp cooling appears to be safe, the 50% success rate and the discomfort make women think twice about using it — not to mention cost. Still, doctors and nurses need to pass on better information so that patients can make an informed decision, he explained.

Ross presented an examination of 40 systematic reviews, comparative trials, and publications on scalp cooling at the Oncology Nursing Society 2016 Annual Congress in San Antonio.

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