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No, You Don’t Have to Lose Your Hair After Chemotherapy

Ask anyone who has endured chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and they’re likely to tell you that hair loss adds insult to injury to their already devastating condition. So when we learned about a process that can drastically reduce the side effects of hair loss in those undergoing these cancer treatments, we took notice.

A cooling “cap” called DigniCap, made by Swedish company Dignitana, was first available only in Europe, but has since been approved for marketing in the U.S. This device consists of an inner layer of cold liquid (37 degrees F) and an outer layer that insulates the cold. The secret to its success is that the cold temperature restricts blood vessels in the scalp, impeding the ability of the chemo drug to reach and directly affect hair follicles.

And it doesn’t take long to reap the positive effects from this cold therapy. The DigniCap is worn for about half an hour prior to chemotherapy, throughout the treatment, and for another 30 to 60 minutes afterward (source: Weill Cornell Medicine).

Just how successful is the DigniCap? A study of 101 breast cancer patients reviewed by the FDA who used this cold cap, revealed that 70% of the women experienced no hair loss. Without the cap, nearly 100% of breast cancer survivors experienced hair loss.

This “cold cap” is not the only form of cryotherapy in use.

A popular method among athletes is “whole-body” cryotherapy. It’s a procedure in which an individual steps into a chamber chilled to as much as -245 degrees Fahrenheit for two or three minutes. Because it is a “dry” cold, it is not as uncomfortable as jumping into a cold bath can be. The body’s response is to immediately direct blood flow from extremities to protect vital organs. In this process, toxins are flushed from the bloodstream and tissues, while oxygen, nutrients and enzymes are increased. This recirculated, freshly cleaned blood invokes healing by lowering inflammation, increasing energy and recovery time from injury, and strengthening immunity. (Learn more about whole-body cryotherapy at this link: https://completehealthandwell.com/our-services/cryousa/)

Cryotherapy – Not Just for Athletes

The Kansas City Royals, Dallas Mavericks, and Denver Nuggets are just a few of the sports teams that take advantage of this unique method of healing. Cryotherapy has been used by athletes for years – and it’s time cancer patients learn about its extraordinary advantages.

First, we need to take a look as to WHY these trained athletes avail themselves of this therapy — and that’s simple. The inflammation they incur as a result of repeated injuries often poses a serious problem to their ability to perform. Cryotherapy offers immediate benefits.

Developed in 1978 by Japanese physician, Dr. Toshima Yamauchi, as a means to treat arthritis, cryotherapy has been shown to reduce inflammation and promote injury recovery. How? A study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology Performance determined that cryotherapy boosts high-intensity recovery by increasing the oxygenation of muscles and reducing cardiovascular strain. It also reduced inflammation markers according to a study by the Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation.

Cryotherapy Destroys Cancer Cells

The National Cancer Institute has endorsed cryotherapy as an effective treatment to destroy cancer cells. Cryosurgery is used to treat tumors on the skin, as well as certain tumors inside the body (source: National Cancer Institute: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00258).

NCI cites that cryotherapy treatments can be successful when treating:

  • retinoblastoma
  • skin cancers, including basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas
  • skin lesions from AIDS-related Kaposi sarcoma
  • early-stage prostate cancer
  • liver cancer that is confined to the liver
  • bone cancer, mostly chondrosarcoma
  • non-small cell lung cancer

In what may be the shortest cancer treatment ever, physicians like Dr. Winston Barzell of Sarasota, Florida, attack cancer with cryotherapy. Dr. Barzell primarily treats men with prostate cancer. “If we freeze the tissue to -40 degrees Centigrade, and keep it for three minutes at that level, we kill cancer cells.” (source: Catherine Eves, Cool to Cure)

Catherine explains that “after two freeze-thaw cycles which essentially destroy cells through intracellular/extracellular fluid shifts and membrane disruption (a process taking about 25 minutes), the procedure is over and the patient is free to head home after appropriate, post-op recovery.”

Certainly worth looking into, cryotherapy just may be your best friend in your fight against cancer.

 

No, You Don’t Have to Lose Your Hair After Chemotherapy

RESOURCES

McGowan D. Chemo-induced hair loss: prevention of a distressing side-effect. Br J Nurs. 2013 May 23-Jun 12;22(10):S12. doi: 10.12968/bjon.2013.22.Sup7.S12. PMID: 23752361.

Lubkowska A, Szyguła Z, Chlubek D, Banfi G. The effect of prolonged whole-body cryostimulation treatment with different amounts of sessions on chosen pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines levels in healthy men. Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 2011 Sep;71(5):419-25. doi: 10.3109/00365513.2011.580859. Epub 2011 May 16. PMID: 21574854.

Lombardi G, Ziemann E, Banfi G. Whole-Body Cryotherapy in Athletes: From Therapy to Stimulation. An Updated Review of the Literature. Front Physiol. 2017 May 2;8:258. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00258. PMID: 28512432; PMCID: PMC5411446.

Silva GB, Ciccolini K, Donati A, Hurk CVD. Scalp cooling to prevent chemotherapy-induced alopecia. An Bras Dermatol. 2020 Sep-Oct;95(5):631-637. doi: 10.1016/j.abd.2020.03.005. Epub 2020 Jun 16. PMID: 32622629; PMCID: PMC7563013.

Maia Szalavitz, Cold May Spare Your Hair from Chemo: Who Knew?” Time Magazine (Jan 11, 2011). https://healthland.time.com/2011/01/11/cold-may-spare-your-hair-from-chemo-who-knew/

Alice Park, “How Cryotherapy Prevents Hair Loss from Chemo,” Time Magazine (Dec 9, 2015). https://time.com/4143068/prevent-chemo-hair-loss/

“How Cryotherapy Prevents Hair Loss from Chemo,” Weill Cornell Medicine (Dec 9, 2015). https://meyercancer.weill.cornell.edu/news/2015-12-09/how-cryotherapy-prevents-hair-loss-chemo-cool-caps

Catherine Eves, “Cool to Cure,” Cancer Wellness (July 6, 2020). https://cancerwellness.com/complementary-medicine/cryotherapy-cancer/

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