Chemotherapy has become a standard treatment for cancer. Unfortunately, chemotherapy comes with a wide range of side effects, including hair loss.
Hair loss can not only affect someone’s physical appearance, but their confidence, self-esteem and overall emotional well-being. The MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center offers the DigniCap Scalp Cooling System to minimize hair loss during chemotherapy and improve the emotional well-being and quality of life for its patients.
At the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, cancer patients regularly receive their chemotherapy treatments at the Ambulatory Infusion Center, which houses two of the DigniCap Scalp Cooling Systems. The DigniCap Scalp Cooling System consists of a computerized cooling unit managed through a touch screen display and an attached cooling cap with sensors that the patient wears on their head.
Temperature-regulated coolant continuously circulates through specially designed channels in the cooling caps. The sensors in the cap ensure the proper scalp temperature is maintained throughout the treatment.
Reduced temperature results in a decreased blood flow to the scalp area so that less chemotherapy reaches the hair cells. Hair cells are not exposed to the full dose of chemotherapy and may be able to survive the chemotherapy treatment. As a result, hair is less likely to fall out.
For the system to be effective, the patient must wear the cooling cap throughout each chemotherapy treatment, including after the actual treatment since the chemotherapy drug is still active in the patient’s bloodstream. Depending on the patient’s specific treatment plan, the entire chemotherapy process can be anywhere from one to three hours.
“We started offering this service to our patients about a year ago, and have seen some great results,” says Maria Castellanos, BSN, RN, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Medical Center. “It’s a great option for our patients who are working professionals and want to maintain their appearance and confidence throughout their cancer journey.”
Castellanos and other registered nurses received specialized training to administer the cooling cap to patients. She is leading a project to train the remaining registered nurses in the Ambulatory Infusion Center so the cooling cap technology can be utilized by additional patients, like doctor turned patient, Abigail Fletcher.
“I utilized the cool cap during my chemotherapy because it allowed me to keep my hair, which in turn allowed me to control who I told about my diagnosis,” says Abigail Fletcher, M.D., family medicine physician, Long Beach Medical Center. “Also, my kids are young, and I continued to work during my treatment, so it gave all of us a sense of ‘normalcy’ because I didn’t look different.”
A diagnosis of cancer can be life-changing and maintaining a sense of normalcy can be a challenge. Using the latest technology and supportive care, the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute empowers its patients with the confidence to move forward through their cancer journey.