June 16, 2024

Scalp Cooling System: A Boon for Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy

Cancer patients often face immense hair loss as a side effect of chemotherapy treatment. However, scalp cooling systems are proving to be a helpful advancement in reducing hair loss and preserving self-esteem during chemotherapy.

What is Scalp Cooling?

Scalp cooling, also known as cryotherapy cap therapy, involves wearing a special cooling cap or gel catheter during chemotherapy infusion. The cap or gel catheter helps in lowering the temperature of the scalp, which narrows the blood vessels in the scalp. This reduces the amount of chemotherapy reaching the hair follicles, minimizing hair loss.

Studies have shown that scalp cooling can reduce hair loss by up to 65% when used during chemotherapy, though results vary based on the chemotherapy regimen, individual tolerance levels, and other factors. The cooling works by constricting the blood vessels in the scalp, preventing the chemotherapy drugs from reaching the hair follicles in large amounts.

How Scalp Cooling Works

Scalp cooling caps or gel catheters work by conducting a cooling temperature between -4°C to -8°C deep into the scalp tissue during chemotherapy infusion. The cold temperature causes two important physiological changes:

– It narrows the blood vessels in the scalp, reducing blood flow. This helps prevent large amounts of chemotherapy from reaching the hair follicles.

– It slows down cell metabolism in hair follicles. Chemotherapy damages fast-dividing cells like those in hair follicles. The cold temperature reduces cellular activity and metabolism in hair follicles, protecting them from chemotherapy toxicity.

As chemotherapy infusion ends and the cap is removed, rewarming occurs. Blood vessels dilate again, allowing chemotherapy accumulated in scalp tissues to exit the body through normal routes instead of remaining in hair follicles.

Studies on Effectiveness of Scalp Cooling

Several randomized controlled studies have demonstrated scalp cooling’s efficacy in reducing chemotherapy-induced hair loss:

– A meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials with 1,568 patients found an average hair loss reduction of 66% with scalp cooling.

– Another study of 141 breast cancer patients showed 65% of patients using scalp cooling either retained hair or experienced only mild hair thinning after chemotherapy with doxorubicin/cyclophosphamide.

– For patients receiving docetaxel chemotherapy, scalp cooling led to complete or substantial hair retention in 40% of cases compared to only 6% in the control group not using scalp cooling.

While results vary based on chemotherapy regimen and individual factors, on average scalp cooling provides about a 50-66% reduction in chemotherapy-induced hair loss for most patients. Early initiation of cooling before chemotherapy infusion is key to maximizing efficacy.

Who Can Benefit from Scalp Cooling?

Scalp cooling is suitable for any cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy that is known to commonly cause hair loss as a side effect. This includes:

– Breast cancer patients receiving anthracycline or taxane-based regimens. About 80% of breast cancer patients experience hair loss with these drugs.

– Hematological cancers like leukemia and lymphoma treated with certain intensive chemotherapy regimens.

– Other cancers like lung, ovarian or gastrointestinal cancers where the treatment plan includes commonly alopecic chemo agents.

Patients must be in otherwise good general condition, have no existing cold injury to the scalp, and be able to tolerate the cooling cap or system during infusion. Young children or patients unable to sit still for cooling may not be candidates. Factors like scalp thickness and hair density/length can also impact cooling efficacy.

Side Effects and Comfort Levels

While scalp cooling minimizes hair loss, it is not completely painless or side effect free. Most common side effects reported include:

– Cold-related scalp sensations like headaches, scalp pain or discomfort during cooling that subsides after chemo. Using painkillers can help relieve this.

– Temporary redness or blanching of the scalp during cooling, vasospasm or dizziness in rare cases.

– Low-risk of superficial frostbite if proper protocols not followed.

Patient comfort levels vary greatly. Some say the benefits outweigh minor side effects, while others prefer not to experience any added discomfort during already difficult chemo sessions. Close monitoring by trained staff helps minimize risks and maximize tolerance. Overall, most patients find the cooling manageable.

Growing Popularity and Future Prospects

Scalp cooling is gaining wider acceptance as an effective way to reduce chemotherapy-induced hair loss and maintain self-esteem in cancer patients. Several hospitals now offer the advanced cooling systems as part of their supportive cancer care services. With more supportive clinical evidence and standardized protocols emerging, scalp cooling promises to give hope and relief to even more individuals battling cancer in the future. While not a cure, preserving one’s hair and identity during treatment can offer immense psychological benefit at a vulnerable time.


  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
  2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it