Take Charge

Cold Caps Allows Patients to Keep Hair During Chemotherapy

March 07, 2018


By Nancy Gay

Do blondes really have more fun? Kerry Kinsella put the old adage to the test as she dyed her hair bright blond shortly before beginning chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. She figured if she was going to lose her hair, she may as well go out in style. But, after six rounds of treatment, her golden locks are still in place thanks to The DigniCap Scalp Cooling System, an FDA-approved device for patients undergoing chemotherapy to reduce hair loss.

It feels like a 30-minute brain freeze and then the scalp kind of goes numb, says Kinsella, who is among the first 20 patients to use DigniCap at Moffitt Cancer Center. And that’s before chemotherapy even begins. But the results are worth it. After several months of treatment, Kinsella saw only some thinning and shedding on top of her head.

DigniCap works by reducing the temperature of the scalp, which reduces the blood flow there. This means less chemotherapy reaches the hair cells and the cellular metabolism within the hair cells slows down.

In order for the DigniCap to work, patients must wet their hair and apply the cap 30 minutes before beginning a chemotherapy treatment to allow the cap to cool. The cap circulates liquid to cool the scalp during chemotherapy treatment. Another cap made from a type of rubber called neoprene holds the cooling cap in place and acts as an insulation cover. This is held in place with a strap that’s tightly secured under the chin. The cap remains on throughout the chemotherapy treatment and then for up to three hours afterward depending on the type of drug being administered.

Amy Bucciarelli, an oncology nurse at Moffitt, says the DigniCap gives patients a choice that can be empowering. Many women experience a loss of body image with breast cancer, and losing their hair can add insult to injury, she says. DigniCap gives women a sense of hope and gives them some control over cancer.

Moffitt offers DigniCap to breast cancer patients at its McKinley and International Plaza locations.

Like many women, Kinsella’s insurance didn’t cover the cost of the DigniCap. She was fortunate enough to be able to pay out of pocket and wants to help those who may not be in the same financial situation. She and her friends organized an annual cancer pub crawl a few years ago for friends battling cancer. Since her diagnosis, the cancer crawl has more meaning and she is using it as a fundraising platform. So far, she’s raised $7,500 to help Moffitt patients who can’t afford the DigniCap.

Although she is done with chemotherapy, Kinsella has a long road ahead of her. She will undergo surgery and radiation with her platinum tresses still in place.