Although there isn’t a way to completely prevent hair loss due to chemotherapy, scalp cooling can help some people to keep more of their hair for longer during treatment. It works on the basis that reducing the temperature of the scalp also reduces blood flow to the hair roots. This means that less of the chemotherapy drug reaches the hair follicles where it can cause damage. It doesn’t work for everyone, but some people find that it helps to reduce or delay their hair loss. If you’d like to try it, ask your team whether it is available at your hospital and would be suitable for you.

If you have scalp cooling, a ‘cold cap’ is fitted to your head about 30-40 minutes before your chemotherapy starts and is either filled with cooling gel or has liquid coolant circulated through it. You may be asked to wet your hair to cool the scalp and help to keep the cap in close contact with your head. You may also be asked to put some conditioner in your hair to help when the cap is removed.

The cap will stay in place during your treatment. If you’re using the gel cap, the gel will need to be changed every 20-40 minutes to keep it cool and you can walk around with it on. The liquid coolant system doesn’t need changing but stays plugged in, so you won’t be able to walk around except for short periods such as to go to the toilet.

The cap will also be left in place for 20-90 minutes after chemotherapy finishes, depending on which drugs you’ve had so you’ll need to bear in mind that it will make your chemotherapy days longer..

An example of a cooling system is The Paxman System, which you can read more about and see photos and videos of on their website.

Many people find scalp cooling uncomfortable, particularly the first 15-20 minutes, because the cap is fitted tightly to your head, it can feel heavy and is very cold. It can also cause headaches, forehead pain, nausea, light-headedness and a feeling of coldness not just in the head. If you feel uncomfortably cold, you can wear warm clothing, use a blanket and have hot drinks. You can also ask for a painkiller before the cap is applied. It generally becomes easier to tolerate after a while, however, if you find it too uncomfortable to cope with, you can tell the nurses you want to stop. There is more information about making scalp cooling more comfortable on the Cancer Hair Care website. After the cold cap is removed, you may like to cover your wet hair with a hat or scarf for the journey home.

If you would like to share your experience of scalp cooling or have any tips on having it that other members might find helpful, please leave a comment.

Below are some useful websites if you would like to read more about this:

Cancer Research UK

Macmillan Cancer Support

Cancer Hair Care

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