New cancer cap helps patients keep hair during chemotherapy - WDRB 41 Louisville News

New cancer cap helps patients keep hair during chemotherapy

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Breast cancer patients have a lot to worry about. With surgery, radiation -- and that incredible fight for life -- patients shouldn't have to worry about losing their hair.

But for far too many, hair loss has been the costly price exacted by chemotherapy -- the powerful treatment that robs even as it heals.

Now a revolutionary new device -- a hat of sorts -- is helping women keep their hair.

Theresa Carrico never felt the cancer. She never saw it coming.

"My mammogram was May 31, so I was diagnosed," she recalled. And when the doctor said the word "cancer," she knew what lay ahead.

"My husband died of colon cancer in 2002," Carrico said. "We actually just had his 14th anniversary, so this is not a new thing: going through the whole cancer process."

She was facing Stage Two breast cancer -- and doctors told the 53-year-old mother her battle with the disease would be treatable and curable, but chemotherapy was unavoidable. 

Unlike many other cancer patients, Carrico does not have the fear of going bald. That's because she's one of the first in Kentucky to use the DigniCap. 

"The idea in the DigniCap...is you can cool the cells manufacturing the hair so it reduces their metabolism and they're not as susceptible to the chemo.," said Dr. Jeffrey Hargis, an oncologist with Norton Cancer Institute.

Could it work for other hair loss causing cancer drugs?

"Absolutely," Dr. Hargis said. 

The FDA only cleared DigniCap currently for certain breast cancer treatments. In clinical trials, 65 percent of the patients kept 50 percent or more of their hair. A brain freeze like headache is the most common side effect. 

Patients sit with their head cooled to 41 degrees for their entire chemo treatment. 

"With the treatment she's getting, she would be completely bald at this point," said Mary Schmeing, a nurse. "She would have no hair whatsoever."

"It's working," said Carrico. "It's definitely working."

DigniCap plays on the word "dignity," allowing patients to keep their hair -- to keep a piece of themselves.

"For many women, just having that reminder everyday that they have cancer and they are getting chemotherapy," said Dr. Hargis.

When so much is beyond their control, cancer patients get to keep their self esteem.

Carrico has three treatments left, radiation, then reconstructive surgery. 

"I just feel like I have the guardian angel with me all the time, watching over us," Carrico said.

The Norton Cancer Institute is the only facility offering the treatment, which is not covered by insurance. The cost is about $300 per treatment.

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