FDA clears cold cap to save hair during breast cancer chemo

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FDA clears cold cap to save hair during breast cancer chemo

Chemotherapy causes hair loss as a side effect for many cancer patients. A cooling cap might help retain hair.

Hair loss is one of the most despised side effects of chemotherapy, and now breast cancer patients are getting a new way to try to save their locks.

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it would allow marketing of the DigniCap, a cooling system that chills patients’ scalps to reduce the hair loss that is so common during breast cancer treatment.

A doctor who led research with the hair-preserving strategy welcomed the FDA’s move, saying hair loss has a traumatic effect on patients, and survivors, by revealing an illness that many would prefer to keep private.

“It’s such a marker for women — for work, for their families, for their children — that something’s wrong with them,” said Dr. Hope Rugo of the University of California, San Francisco. “You get just a few months of chemotherapy, and it takes more than a year for your hair to recover.”

Scalp cooling is an idea that’s been around for decades. The near-freezing temperatures are supposed to make it harder for cancer-fighting drugs to reach and harm hair follicles by temporarily reducing blood flow and cell metabolism in the scalp.

Several versions of cold caps are sold around the world. In the U.S., breast cancer patients sometimes bring collections of gel-filled caps to chemo sessions in ice chests, or store them in hospital-provided freezers, so that when one cap thaws they can don another.

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