At a Glance
- Hair loss can be a devastating side effect for some women undergoing chemotherapy treatment
- UVA Cancer Center is now offering a treatment to prevent hair loss to breast cancer patients receiving chemo
- DigniCap is a scalp cooling treatment FDA approved for patients with solid tumors undergoing chemo
- DigniCap may be available to other UVA cancer patients in the future
As you know, hair loss is a common side effect of many of the chemotherapy drugs used to combat breast cancer. And it can be devastating for many women. Not just because of the way hair loss alters their appearance; it’s also about the loss of privacy. For a woman, a bald head is, with a few exceptions, a sign to the world that she has cancer. Suddenly, a sense of normalcy is more challenging to uphold.
With this in mind, UVA Cancer Center is now offering breast cancer patients a treatment that has been shown to limit hair loss. “DigniCap is a scalp cooling treatment that has been FDA-approved for patients with solid tumors undergoing chemotherapy. UVA is offering this treatment to breast cancer patients first, but we may extend to others, including men, in the future,” says Tracey Gosse, manager of oncology programs at UVA Cancer Center.
How It Works
DigniCap consists of a silicone cap with circulating coolant that is connected to a control unit. By keeping the head cool, blood flow to the scalp is reduced, which also limits the flow of chemotherapy to the area, protecting hair cells from full exposure to the drugs. “There have been other scalp cooling products available in the past, but this device is different because it maintains the proper temperature throughout the treatment,” says Gosse. “Patients who have tried it so far have seen a noticeable benefit. They have some hair loss, but it’s not as noticeable.”
Patients wear the cap for about 30 minutes before their infusion, throughout the infusion and, depending on the type of chemotherapy, may be required to wear the cap for up to three hours after their infusion ends. “It does require the patient to sit for longer periods, so that should be a consideration,” says Gosse.
In addition to the extra time required for infusions, cost may be an issue for some; DigniCap is not yet covered by insurance. Plus, using chemicals on the hair, such as hair dye, after treatment will lead to hair loss. “Overall, we have very high hopes for the treatment and we’re happy we can give our patients this option,” says Gosse.
If you have a patient who may be interested in DigniCap, call 434.924.1555.
(Image courtesy of DigniCap®)