Cooling cap could prevent hair loss in breast cancer patients

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KANSAS CITY  -- While many women would be concerned about their new highlights of gray, Marilyn Scherer embraces her salt and pepper roots.

"I got to keep my hair. I didn't feel sick and I didn't look sick."

Scherer was diagnosed with cancer in July and began chemotherapy about a month later. By December, she had completed treatment and still had nearly all of her hair due to a new medical technology.

"You immediately think, oh gosh, am I going to die? That's what everybody thinks you know when you hear cancer. Then you think, oh wow, am I going to have to do chemo? You worry. And you know if you do chemo, you are going to lose your hair and that's awful. It was devastating for me."

Menorah Medical Center is the only cancer treatment center in Kansas City with the Dignicap, a medical device that preserves a cancer patient's hair by cooling the scalp during chemotherapy.

"When you cool the scalp there is less blood flow to the scalp," explained Dr. Stephanie Graff, a Breast Medical Oncologist. "And so less blood flow means that the chemo that is going into your veins isn't circulating to high concentrations in the scalp and the hair follicles don't have that cell turn over and trauma that they would otherwise have."

"When I look in the mirror every day, I want to see me. I don't want to be reminded that I have breast cancer."

Scherer said while losing one's hair is minor in comparison to losing one's life, Dignicap allows cancer patients to focus on treatment instead of its side effects.

Right now the technology is cleared by the FDA for preserving hair for breast cancer patients, but doctors at Menorah Medical Center said the treatment would work for patients with any kind of cancer.