Hair loss can be distressing even when it is simply due to the inevitable ageing process. When it is illness-related or a side effect of chemotherapy, however, it can have an even deeper emotional impact. This is partly because it’s a daily reminder to you and your loved ones that you are enduring a painful and unpleasant time, and it’s partly because a new haircut can be an effective way to make ourselves feel a little better when we are depressed or ill. The removal of this simple treat from our armoury of remedies can be devastating.
New hope from clinical trials
There is a widespread recognition across the medical profession that hair loss is upsetting to individuals who are already suffering from a serious and debilitating illness. Many organisations offer advice on coping mechanisms. See, for example, http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/cancer/Pages/Cancerandhairloss.aspx.
Companies carrying out clinical trial services have also dedicated time and resources to finding solutions to chemotherapy-related hair loss. While these projects have had varied results, one of the most promising advances in this area is the latest generation of the so-called “cooling cap”. According to two independent studies published in February 2017, this cap seems to deliver results and offers hope of halting hair loss during treatment.
How it works
The science underpinning the trails is well-established. Lowering the temperature of the scalp has the effect of narrowing blood vessels in that area. This effectively reduces blood flow and the amount of chemotherapy arriving in the follicles of the hair. Ultimately, it is thought that this will curb hair loss. The trials in question, which will be of interest to companies like http://www.gandlscientific.com/clinical-trial-services/, extended the principle by applying a close-fitting silicone cap to patients’ scalps during chemotherapy. The cap is fashioned to have several chambers filled with a coolant solution.
One of the recent studies found that some 50 per cent of trial participants retained at least half their hair, which is in striking contrast to the zero per cent of patients who kept their hair in the control group. The results of the second trial were even more impressive, with two thirds of those using scalp cooling keeping their hair. Losing one’s hair is no trivial consequence of chemotherapy, and this new technique will offer hope to millions of sufferers.