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Letter: Making Chemo a Little Easier

To the Editor:

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we’d like to take a moment to let women in the area know of a potential resource.

One possible treatment for breast cancer is chemotherapy. A side effect of many chemotherapeutic regimens is hair loss. While such loss is usually — though not always — temporary, many women describe it as distressing or devastating. Studies have shown that concern over hair loss can lead some women (up to 8 percent in one study) to refuse recommended chemotherapy.

Scalp cooling — either through gel-filled caps cooled to extremely low temperatures or through a snug-fitting cap attached to a cooling machine — has been found to prevent or decrease chemo-related hair loss by reducing blood flow to the scalp and by preserving hair follicles. Effectiveness varies and is better for some chemotherapeutic regimens than for others, but many women find that they can go through chemotherapy without noticeable hair loss. “Cold caps,” as they are called, have been used and studied in Europe for decades. Their use in the U.S. is growing with increasing numbers of women bringing them to their treatment center. Clinical trials are currently underway at academic medical centers, including the University of California at San Francisco and Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Here in the Upper Valley, several of us have used cold caps during chemotherapy for breast cancer in the past year. Preserving most or some of our hair during chemotherapy has made a huge difference for us in how the world sees us and in how we see ourselves. We are grateful to the local institutions and physicians who have supported our decision to use cold caps.

We have compiled an extensive bibliography on the research, effectiveness and safety of cold caps that we would be happy to share. We also have information on how to obtain cold caps and on how to find local resources. We have no vested interest in cold caps, nor do we promote their use. Our goal is simply to make women aware of this resource. Contact us at UpperValleyColdCapUsers@gmail.com.

Ginny Reed

Fairlee

Joan Ecker

Quechee