My first chemotherapy cycle is due to start in a few weeks’ time and I still can’t decide whether to try the cold cap to try and prevent losing my hair. The prospect of any woman losing her hair is certainly very frightening – another giant signpost of this dastardly disease.
I have been in touch with some lovely ladies who have tried the cap and it has been successful for them and with those who decided not to.
I had reservations before I met my oncologist as to the safety of using a cold cap as I’d heard that by using it the scalp wouldn’t be protected if the cancer cells were to spread to this area (metastasis). Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that has spread from the breast to another part of the body or has come back in another distant location.
I raised my concerns with my oncologist and he said they simply wouldn’t recommend using the cold cap if it would cause the patient any harm. He handed me some printed information from Macmillan on scalp cooling to read. In it there is a section titled “Concerns about scalp cooling” where it says:
“Some doctors worry about using scalp cooling with treatment that aims to cure the cancer. They are concerned that cancer cells that may have spread to the scalp may be more likely to survive chemotherapy if scalp cooling is used. However, cancer spreading to the scalp is very uncommon. Clinical trials have shown that the risk of this occurring as a result of scalp cooling is very small, except in haematological cancers. Some people may prefer not to have scalp cooling because of this, but others are happy to try it.”
He put me down to try it. Whilst chatting to my breast care nurse I also voiced my concerns again, and she echoed the same sentiment of my oncologist, they wouldn’t recommend or use it if it were to put the patient at risk.
I’d also been in touch with another lady who is currently undergoing chemotherapy and who has successfully used the cold cap. Now on her fourth cycle of treatment she has kept her hair and is pleased with the result.
I really don’t want to lose my hair. I think that’s a given for any women diagnosed with cancer. I have shoulder length hair and if I have more than an inch cut off at the hairdressers I feel like I’ve been scalped. I hate to wear my hair up, I feel exposed, and it’s nice to “hide” behind if that makes sense. However for the sake of keeping my hair, that will ultimately grow back, do I take this very minuscule risk?! Of course, the cold cap doesn’t work for everyone, so I may end up losing my hair anyway.
I decided to call the breast cancer care helpline (0808 800 6000) to ask what their thoughts were. The lady explained that evidence suggests that it is safe for people with breast cancer to use and that the risk is only for people who have a haematological cancer such as leukaemia. She also pointed me to an article that ASCO (the American Society of Clinical Oncology) had recently published in which she said that this risk was understood to be the case 30 years ago, however they understand the biology of cancer far better today.
The article reads: “We understand a lot more about the biology of cancer and metastatic disease now; it turns out that the risk of metastases to the scalp is extremely low, and as a first event for advanced disease, it is even lower. Mostly, scalp metatases are seen after people have already had metastases to other places in the body, and in total, only about 1.2% of all metastases are found in the scalp.
Scalp metastasis would have to be the first site of metastatic disease to postulate that is has anything to do with scalp cooling, and that is very uncommon in the studies that are available. I’ve reviewed over 4,000 patients reported in clinical trials, and it is just exceedingly rare and doesn’t seem to be any higher in risk, from what we can tell, in patients who are using the cold cap.”
The lady on the helpline said it really was down to personal choice. I need to do what is best for me, what sits most comfortably in my mind and will give me the least amount of worry.
More choices, and more difficult decisions. I’m a natural born worrier and not the most of decisive of people let’s say! I have a few more weeks yet to decide. I’m just wondering if anyone else has been in this quandary and what helped you to decide?