YOUR HEALTH: A cooling cap that helps you keep your hair during chemotherapy

The FDA is now allowing greater use of “cooling caps” to help cancer patients preserve their hair.

BALTIMORE, Maryland – Scalp cooling has been used in one form or another for the past few years to help some cancer patients preserve hair, but those devices were limited to certain patients with breast cancer only.

But inside a small suitcase is a silicone cap and all the tools Terri Buckler needed to save her hair while she was undergoing the treatments designed to save her life.

"A regular 3-D mammogram caught this cancer," she remembered.   "I could not feel anything.   My doctor could not feel anything."

Terri needed chemo followed by radiation with a drug that would cause hair loss.

It's one side effect her doctor had a solution for.

"They're dealing with so many other things. If you can take that off their plate, that's the good thing," explained Dr. David Riseberg, Medical Oncologist at Baltimore's Mercy Medical Center.

A silicone cooling cap with gel covered Terri's scalp, another cover kept it snug.

Nurses connected the cap to the Paxman Cooling System.  It lowers the temperature of the scalp, causing the blood vessels to constrict.

"That prevents the chemotherapy from getting to the hair follicles and can reduce the amount of hair loss," said Dr. Riseberg.

This procedure was approved for just breast cancer patients until earlier this year.

In addition to breast cancer, the FDA has now expanded its use for patients with ovarian, colorectal and prostate cancers.

FDA APPROVED:   The FDA has approved the Paxman Scalp Cooling System for patients with solid tumors, such as ovarian, breast, colorectal and prostate cancers.   By preventing or decreasing hair loss, the system helps improve quality of life for many of the patients who are burdened by chemotherapy-related hair loss.   This is the second scalp cooling system approved by the FDA.   The DigniCap System was approved in December 2015.

From Terri's first to her last chemo treatment most people couldn't see the difference.

"I never used a scarf, I never covered my head. I was always able to style my hair to where if there was a small bald spot I could hide it."

Preserving peace of mind during a tough treatment to restore a patient's health.

The procedures are not covered by insurance.

Terri says the cap cost $500 and each treatment was $200 dollars out of pocket.

She needed four treatments.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.