HEALTH

The Cap That Could Slow Hair Loss During Chemotherapy

Product may help people lose the cancer, not the hair.

15/06/2016 6:21 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
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Belinda Evans trialled a cap designed to reduce hair loss during chemotherapy.

With chemotherapy on the horizon, Belinda Evans didn't want to wait for her hair to fall out, so she shaved her head.

"I wanted to take control of the hair-loss situation," Evans said.

"I'd heard from some women that had undergone chemotherapy how they'd have their hair falling out in clumps and they'd feel quite emotional. I wanted to take away that step. I wanted to take control."

When she arrived to see her oncologist the next day, however, she was offered to take part in a trial designed to limit hair loss.

"I'd already gone and shaved my hair but I'm a research scientist, and I was interested in seeing the effect considering I'd shaved my head."

Breast Cancer Research Centre WA is trialling a tight-fitting hat called Dignicap -- which cools the surface of the head during chemotherapy, limiting the drug's ability to reach hair follicles. It's a randomised trial of 60 people undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer and the caps are donated by hair loss treatment company Ashley and Martin.

Evans said the cap felt like prolonged "brain freeze", and would sometimes spend four or five hours wearing it, but that it had a big effect on her.

"I lost all my body hair but my head hair actually grew during that time," Evans said.

"I feel lucky because i's not something that works so well on everyone but for me, it's definitely worked."

Mount Hospital research and clinical trials director Arlene Chan said the caps had been available for some time but this was the first Australian trial to test their effectiveness at specific temperatures.

"While the technique of scalp cooling during chemotherapy is not new, predicting the effectiveness of scalp cooling, examining the parameters that might influence the success rate of scalp cooling, and understanding the long-term safety of the device, is not well-established among women undergoing current chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer," Chan said.

"To our knowledge, it's possibly the first trial of this nature to examine the success of scalp cooling with different chemotherapy treatments and cooling temperatures."

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