My Cold Cap Dilemma

When I met with my consultant she asked if I wanted to use the “Cold Cap”.  I had heard about it but didn’t know a lot about it.  She explained that she didn’t offer it to everyone as it wasn’t suitable for all hair types but it would work well for my hair.

It’s not on offer in all hospitals and has a waiting list on some so the hospital I would choose to have my treatment in would influence this.  Based on the information she gave me I decided why not give it a try – what had I to lose only my hair which was going to go anyway.  It can be painful but I knew I had the option to quit if I wanted to.

That was until I went to look at wigs and was told I can’t dye my hair until 6 months after the chemotherapy.  I had already read that I would only be able to give my hair one gentle wash a week (with baby shampoo) and could not blow dry or straighten it in order to try and protect the hair.

For those who don’t already know – here comes my first bare all truth….. I am not a natural brunette (well not any longer anyway!) Yep genes are a great thing and although my mums side of the family hung on to their natural hair colours until well into their 60s (and my siblings don’t have a grey hair between them) I was blessed with my fathers genes in this regard and have a nice little badger streak 2 weeks after getting my hair done!

So, the thoughts of not being able to dye it for 10 months was massive! Also, I’ve already mentioned my close relationship with my hairdryer and our backpacking adventure, I don’t just blow dry my hair when I wash it – I use my hairdryer every day to re-style my hair.  So, if my hair was going to be grey, greasy or a frizzy mess – what was the point in keeping it? I would need to cover it up anyway so would I not be better just getting rid of it?

I spent a lot of time toing and froing with this decision.  I finally decided I would get rid of my hair.  Until – four days before starting my chemotherapy I was told by the hospital that I could dye my hair and many women did! This threw a spanner in the works! So, back to square one!  In the end (and because I had to let the hospital know if I was going to use the cold cap) I decided yet again to give it a go and see what happens! I’ll give an update on my experience once I give it a try but below is some of the info provided by the company who provides them (Paxman).

Some facts about the cold cap:

Why does chemotherapy make your hair fall out?

Chemotherapy works by targeting all rapidly dividing cells in the body.   Hair is the second fastest dividing cell in the body and this is the reason why many chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss.  The hair follicles in the growth phase are attacked resulting in hair loss approximately two weeks after the commencement of chemotherapy.

How does the cold cap work?

The damage the chemotherapy causes to the hair follicle can be alleviated by scalp cooling. It works by reducing the temperature of the scalp by a few degrees immediately before, during and after the admission of chemotherapy. This, in turn, reduces the blood flow to the hair follicles which may prevent or minimise the hair loss.

How effective is it?

Successful scalp cooling depends on many factors such as type and stage of cancer, age, hair type, hair condition and general health.  Hair loss does vary from one person to the next.  Generally speaking hair loss of 30%-50% is expected while using the cold cap.

What to expect /Is it painful?

Tolerance of the cold feeling experienced whilst having the scalp cooling treatment varies widely from one patient to the next.  In the first 10-15 minutes, patients often experience an intense feeling of discomfort or pain but this tends to die down as you acclimatise to the cold.  Patients are advised to dress warmly to keep warm.

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