A team led by scientists from Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas has reached a finding which can bring happiness for hundreds of thousands breast cancer patients across the globe.
In a multi-center clinical trial, the effect of scalp cooling caps on preventing hair loss in breast cancer patients was analyzed. The patients showed that the use of scalp cooling caps prevented over 50% hair loss, by the time they reached 4th cycle of chemotherapy.
The trial ran for a span of three years, from 2013 to 2016, which recruited 182 women who were undergoing chemotherapy in 7 different clinical sites in the US.
The crucial study findings were also recently published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA).
In the U.S., over 12% women are estimated to develop invasive breast cancer any time during their lifetime which suggests that in 2017, over 255,180 new cases of breast cancer will be recorded.
After a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, she is advised to receive chemotherapy so that the cancerous cells are killed, cancer is treated and the risk of relapse is minimized.
The drug can be administered intravenously or orally, which can either be given to a patient before surgery (neoadjuvant chemotherapy) or after surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy) according to the treatment requirement of individual case.
American Cancer Society suggests that the most commonly used chemotherapy drugs for breast cancer patients include anthracyclines, 5-flurouracil, taxanes, carboplatin and cyclophosphamide. Often these drugs are used in a combination of two to three drugs for receiving best possible cancer treatment results.
In the study under discussion, the participants received chemotherapy using two drugs primarily; anthracycline and taxane.
Out of the recruited participants, 142 patients who completed the study had an average age of 52.6 years. By the time the trial was completed, it was observed that 48 of the 95 patients in the study group showed successful hair preservation.
Delving deeper to monitor the scalp cooling device efficacy against hair loss, it was further found that 5% of the patients who used this device showed no hair loss and 45% patients showed only less than 50% hair loss.
Furthermore, when the device efficacy was compared in respect with the chemotherapy drug used, over 65% patients who received taxane-based chemotherapy showed hair retention.
On the contrary, in the control group of participants who did not use the scalp cooling device, none of the participants showed hair preservation.
While, no serious adverse health effects were associated with the use of the scalp cooling cap, the observed side effects involved chills, nausea, headache and skin pain.
Scalp Cooling Cap: Your Ally Against Cancer
Studies show that the use of adjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer cases improves survival rates significantly. Nevertheless, chemotherapy is associated with adverse effects including alopecia.
Alopecia is another term used for hair loss which remains a major traumatic aftermath for over 50% of patients who receive chemotherapy treatment.
After a person receives chemotherapy in the fight against cancer, the growth of hair cells is paralyzed. Under normal circumstances, the hair follicles carry the ability to divide after every 23 to 72 hours which keeps the hair growth normal.
However, the toxic effects of chemotherapy hampers the hair growth by destroying hair cells which consequently lead to partial or complete hair loss just with the few weeks’ treatment.
A person who is surviving a potentially life-limiting ailment is then encountered with yet another trauma to handle.
To make survival against breast cancer physically and emotionally less agonizing, the advent of scalp cooling cap comes into play.
These scalp caps are worn by the patient like a helmet 20-50 minutes before, during or after the chemotherapy cycle. The cap is installed with gel coolant or connected with refrigerator which subsequently helps in minimizing hair loss.
These favorable resulting effects are obtained as reducing the temperature by a few degrees help in reducing the blood flow in the vessels by 20-40%.
Narrowing of blood vessel network beneath the scalp eventually reduces the exposure of hair cells to the chemotherapy drug.
As lesser amounts of drug reaches the hair cells beneath the scalp, ultimately reducing damage to the hair cells.
Currently in the US, DigniCap scalp cooling systems are the only devices which are FDA approved and used by cancer hospitals. However, Paxman is another company which is globally known as the pioneers of scalp cooling technology.
Although, the scalp cooling devices have been used actively by oncology centers, this study is said to be the first one to document the efficacy at a large scale.
As the finding is making waves amongst cancer patients and their families and giving them hope in them for better survival and life quality against cancer; it is hoped that the clinical use of these devices is encouraged by authorities internationally.