Health & Spirit

Device helps cancer patients keep their hair, dignity

Cassie Cope, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Health & Fitness

"We provide wigs and scarves free to women with breast cancer," said Pamela Young of Carolina Breast Friends. "Many women come in with a friend or family member, and we make the experience as positive and fun as we can in our try-on room."

The organization also holds a monthly "Be Beautiful, Be You" workshop with a fashion consultant that teaches wig, scarf and make-up styling and celebrates the intrinsic beauty of each woman, she said.

For patients who choose scalp cooling treatment, not everyone will keep all of their hair. In an FDA clinical trial of 101 women who used the DigniCap system, about two-thirds lost less than half of their hair.

For Smith, using the system meant a long process that she described as uncomfortable.

First, she soaked her hair with water, then parted her hair down the middle and put on a papery blue bonnet to hold moisture against her head. Next, she put on the tight-fitting silicone cooling cap, followed by an insulating neoprene cap, like the material used in wetsuits. Then Velcro straps held everything in place close to the scalp.

The caps are really tight and once on, she said she would stay cold for four hours.


"Liquid coolant circulates throughout the silicone cap, delivering consistent and controlled cooling to all areas of the scalp," according to Dignitana.

The scalp is cooled to just above freezing, "reducing delivery of chemotherapy to the scalp," according to Dignitana.

Even during July and August she would struggle to warm up.

"I would get in my car that is probably 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) in the middle of summer, and I would drive all the way home for about 20 minutes with the windows up and the air turned off," Smith said. "Just baking, and it would feel so good to me."


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