Chemotherapy for cancer can really take its toll on the human body. If you have been told that you have cancer and need to start chemo soon, your second thought may be about your hair and other people asking questions. (Your first may be about the amount of chemo and the aggressive level at which your doctor expects to set it, and/or you may want to know about nausea.) If you would really rather not have tons of people know you have cancer and you do not want anyone's pity, cold caps can help hide the chemo and the cancer. Here is how.
What Cold Caps Are
More than a "beauty regimen," cold caps help cancer patients keep their hair during the several weeks they receive chemo. They are caps worn over your natural head of hair, right from the first treatment to the last. They contain a gel that is exceedingly cold, and helps "freeze" your head. You put a cold cap on for about ten minutes before your chemo starts and then wear it until your session is done. If the cap suddenly gets too warm, you take it off and put on a fresh one.
What Cold Caps Do
There are dozens of tiny blood vessels that feed into your scalp and provide nutrients to your hair roots. Chemo is a toxin used to kill cancer cells, and as such, it circulates throughout your blood, even into those tiny blood vessels that connect to your hair roots. The chemo enters the hair roots and kills the roots and hair cells. To prevent that from happening, the extreme cold of the cold caps causes these blood vessels to shrink and constrict so that the chemo cannot reach the hair roots and damage them. The result is that you keep your hair longer. Some patients on lighter chemo keep their hair entirely.
Additionally, since there are no outward obvious signs that you are sick, you get to keep these personal matters to yourself. It helps to maintain your self-esteem and confidence, which in turn helps you feel better emotionally. Feeling better emotionally helps you feel better physically, even when the chemo does make you nauseous.
Where to Find Cold Caps
Cancer treatment centers often provide cold caps to patients as a gesture of kindness. You may be able to buy a few from your cancer treatment center or from your oncologist's office. You may also find them online, but be sure to ask your oncologist about any cold caps sold online so that you get the right (and most effective!) ones.