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Cold Caps Breast Cancer Chemotherapy

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How effective are cold caps in respect of breast cancer chemotherapy please?  Does it matter how long your hair is?  Can you speak on the phone whilst wearing it?  How long before chemo starts and how long after the chemo stops do you need to wear it?  Does it also protect eyebrows and eyelashes?

Ellen M-Macmillan
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Hi Focus3

Thanks for getting back in touch with us.

It’s understandable why you have lots of questions about using a cold cap when you’re getting chemotherapy.

I have read that you’ve been talking to others in our breast cancer group and getting lots of information and tips. I hope you’re finding the support helpful. There really is nothing quite like the support that you can get from others who know what it’s like.

The truth is that scalp cooling doesn’t work for all chemotherapy drugs and the effectiveness varies from person to person. You will not know how well it will work for you until you try it.

This information from an American Breast Cancer website reports.

Research results show that cold caps and scalp cooling systems were considered highly effective in 50% to about 65% of the women who used them. Women who got only taxane chemotherapy have had better results with cold caps and scalp cooling systems than women who got only anthracycline chemotherapy.

In research on the Paxman System, about 65% of the women treated with taxane-based chemotherapy lost less than half their hair and about 22% of the women treated with anthracycline chemotherapy lost less than half their hair. In research done on the DigniCap System, about 66% of the women treated with taxane chemotherapy had hair preservation. This study didn’t look at women treated with anthracycline-based chemotherapy.

Adriamycin (chemical name: doxorubicin), Ellence (chemical name: epirubicin), and daunorubicin are anthracyclines.

Taxol (chemical name: paclitaxel), Taxotere (chemical name: docetaxel), and Abraxane (chemical name: albumin-bound or nab-paclitaxel) are taxanes”

Some people do find that if they have long hair that it can help if they get it cut shorter as there is less weight pulling on the roots.

You will be able to use your mobile phone depending on the unit’s mobile phone policy. Depending on the type of cooling system they use you may not be able to have your phone to your ear or hear someone if you’re attached to a machine. But you will be able to text rather than speak to someone.

Scalp cooling cap need to be worn for up to 30 to 40 minutes before your chemotherapy drugs are given. The length of time that you need to have the cap on for afterwards will depend on the type of chemotherapy you’re getting. You may have the cap on for a few hours in total. Your chemotherapy nurse will be able to give you specific information about this.

It only protects the hair on your scalp. Body hair may still fall out, including your eyelashes and eyebrows.

It’s understandable why you might feel worried about losing your eyebrows and eyelashes. It can be helpful to plan to buy products you think you will need and learn how to use them in advance.

You could check whether a Boots Macmillan Beauty Advisor is available at your local Boots store. Boots Macmillan Beauty Advisors have been trained to support people living with cancer. They offer free, face-to-face advice about caring for your skin, hair and nails.

Look Good Feel Better is an international cancer support charity that helps boost the physical and emotional wellbeing of people undergoing cancer treatments.

Their free confidence boosting Workshops are held across the UK for women, men and young adults undergoing treatment for any type of cancer. 

They teach vital skills from helping to correct uneven skin tone to re-creating missing eyebrows. They also have online tutorials and advice for women that you can view.

We also have these practical tips to help you look after your hair when you’re having chemotherapy.

There are many ways that we can support you. You can call our Support Line on 0808-808-0000 and talk to one of our nurses. Our lines are open every day from 8am till 8pm.

I hope all goes well with your treatment.

Best wishes and take care.

Ellen-Macmillan online Digital Nurse Specialist.