New medical device helps patients treated with chemotherapy keep their hair

Doctors say Chemo Cap works in 80 to 90 percent of patients

By Allison McGinley - News Director

MIAMI, Fla. - In October the world turns its focus to the fight against breast cancer. We see pink everywhere, charity races are run, and brave women-- mothers, daughters, sisters, wives--- are celebrated.

It's estimated that one in eight American women will develop breast cancer in their lifetimes, and chemotherapy and radiation is often the one-two punch often used by doctors in hopes of knocking out cancer.

But weeks and months of chemotherapy can take an emotional toll especially when it comes to your physical appearance.

When personal trainer Sunny Steurer was diagnosed with breast cancer in February of 2012 her mind started racing.

"The first thing I ask my oncologist what are the side effects do I lose my hair and she said yes," said Steurer.

For a moment she considered not going through chemotherapy.

"I'm in public all the time and I didn't want to look sick," said Steurer.

Breast cancer specialist Dr. Alejandra Perez says hair loss is one of the most traumatic side effects of breast cancer treatment.

"I've had patients refuse chemotherapy which is a life saving intervention because they don't want to lose their hair," said Perez.

But chemotherapy patients can preserve their hair with a device known as a 'cold cap' which freezes the scalp and prevents chemotherapy from reaching the hair follicles.

"The first 10 minutes when you get it on you want to rip it off it is so freaking cold but after 10 minutes you don't feel it anymore its fine," said Streurer.

"It's effective in about 80 to 90 percent of patients so there is some hair loss but most patients are able to keep most of their hair," said Perez.

As with many new medicines and devices, cold caps have not yet been given safety clearance by the food and drug administration.

"In the past there were concerns about cancer cells staying in the scalp and causing problems now we know that the risk of that happening is very small so doctors are getting more comfortable," said Perez.

But Steurer felt it was a risk worth taking to keep herself looking and feeling her best through a long and difficult process.

There is a significant cost to the cold cap. The device runs about 25 hundred dollars and right now it's not covered by insurance.

The cold cap can be used by men, women and children to prevent hair loss for any kind of cancer treatment that involves chemotherapy.

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