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Health Watch: ‘Cold Cap Therapy’ May Help Cancer Patients Keep Hair

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(credit: CBS) Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It seems the two go hand-in-hand: chemotherapy and losing your hair. However, some cancer patients are keeping their hair in the midst of aggressive treatments: It’s called cold cap therapy.

Dawn Rynder had a lot to discuss with her boss after she found out in October she had cancer and chemo would need to start right away.

“There’s a lot of people who deal with a lot of hard things,” she said. “Mine just came on top of each other.”

A month and a half after finding out she’d have to fight for her life, her husband lost his. He died at 44 years old from a heart condition.

“Some days cancer’s easier to deal with and some days grief is easier to deal with than the hassles of cancer,” Rynder said.

Then, in the midst of the lowest point of her life, her boss, Marc Powers, gave her a boost. He knew a lot about breast cancer. His 32-year-old wife was finishing up her own round of chemo – with a full head of blonde hair. So, he had some advice for Rynder that his wife had given him.

“She’s the one who found out this practice could actually potentially save your hair,” Powers said.

The practice, called cold cap therapy, takes place during chemo, patients wear head wraps to try and freeze out the effects of chemo on their scalp.

“There’s no guarantee people will keep their hair, but there is an increasing rate of success,” Dr. Paul Zander of Minnesota Oncology said.

Zander says it’s not clear exactly how it works, but it is clear that for some of his patients, it does.

“They should be aware this type of therapy is out there, they should ask their oncologist and do some research on their own,” Zander said.

Zander says there could be risks – and it’s costly.

“I didn’t really even consider cold capping because I knew financially that it was a pretty big bill and I knew we probably wouldn’t be able to afford it,” Rynder said.

Powers, however, knew it had worked on the woman he lives with and wanted it to work on the woman he works with. So, he talked to her closest friends at the office and they supported her financially.

“If it helped make the day a little bit easier for her, I mean, that’s all I need,” Powers said.

Now, she’s got one session left of the minus 22 degree treatment that lasts four hours.

“I can look at the mirror and I can feel like at least I have control over this one part of my life when a lot of other things feel out of control. For me it really has been fantastic,” Rynder said.

Cold cap therapy costs about $600 a month and you have to do it for as long as you’re getting chemo.

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