WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Doctors at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center are testing a device that could significantly reduce hair loss in chemotherapy patients.
It is called a DigniCap, and patients wear the cooling cap during chemo treatments.
The device cools the scalp and reduces blood flow, so hair follicles aren’t exposed to as many cancer-fighting drugs. It also decreases the metabolism of hair follicles.
In the beginning, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center was one of only two hospitals in the country participating in the FDA study. Now, five hospitals are participating in the second phase of the trial, which began last September.
Dr. Susan Melin, associate professor of Internal Medicine-Hematology and Oncology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, currently has 12 patients enrolled in the study.
Melin says some doctors worry stopping the chemotherapy from reaching the scalp reduces the effectiveness of the treatment. However, in her experience, the downsides of using the caps have been minimal when you consider the alternative.
“To not require them to wear a wig or scarf is a tremendous achievement, because it's very traumatic and it affects a woman's body image,” said Melin.
Melin says the majority of women do report some hair loss.
For now, the trial is only open to Stage I and Stage II breast cancer patients.
Cheryl Cook, a High Point resident, has already been through the trial. She considers herself a success story.
“I felt good during my entire treatment. I did not want to look sick. Even though my hair thinned some, I was probably the only one who noticed it,” said Cook.
Cook hopes DigniCaps will be available to all chemotherapy patients soon.
Dignitana, the Swedish company behind the caps, hopes to get FDA approval for the product by 2015.