Chemo cold caps reduce hair loss for breast cancer patients


NORWALK, Conn. (WTNH)–  Reducing hair loss for breast cancer patients during chemotherapy, Norwalk Hospital is the only hospital in the state offering a pilot program, using an ice cold approach. Breast cancer patients are using Penguin Cold Caps to prevent significant hair loss.

Susy Evans is now cancer-free after undergoing lumpectomies, a double mastectomy, and chemotherapy for stage 2 breast cancer. But losing her hair was not part of the process.

“It thinned, it started after the first chemo, but it wasn’t enough to be noticeable,” said Evans.

Not noticeable because Evans chose to put on her head the frozen, soft, gel-filled caps.

“It is cold, very, very cold,” said Evans. “I initially said no, especially since insurance didn’t cover it. And then I envisioned walking around the office and having to go wig shopping, it was just overwhelming.”

It’s basically the dry ice method, worn as Evans was undergoing chemo.

“And every half hour, you change the cap,” said Evans.

They are frozen to negative 30 degrees Celsius, cooling the scalp so hair follicles are temporarily dormant.

“I think it’s that freezing, that then kinda penetrates into the scalp so that those hair follicles don’t get the chemotherapy so the hair follicles stay in place,” said Breast Health Specialist Mary Heery. “Breast cancer doesn’t usually metastasize to the scalp, so we’re pretty comfortable with the idea that this is safe.”

The caps though are not FDA approved.

“It does not work for everybody, and it does not work for every chemotherapy,” said Medical Oncologist Dr. Richard Zelkowitz.

He also said that it was particularly effective for a common chemotherapy regimen.

“It’s called TC or Taxotere-Cytotaxan, and we’ve had pretty good results,” said Zelkowitz.

So far 14 out of 15 patients opting to use these caps have kept at least 80-percent of their hair.

Patients pay $2,000 for it because it is not covered by insurance, but it’s well worth it for Evans. 

“Everybody doesn’t have to know, you don’t have to walk around ‘oh she has cancer, what’s the matter with Susy?'”

Cloaked by that sense of dignity, she found the strength to battle back her way.

For more information about Penguin Cold Cap Therapy at The Smilow Family Breast Health Center at Norwalk Hospital, call (203) 852-2300 or visit www.norwalkhospital.org.

You can also log onto www.penguincoldcaps.com.

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