Hair loss during chemotherapy is not a certainty. Cold cap therapy, also called scalp cooling, an innovative treatment offered at University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC), is changing that.

This technology can lessen, or even eliminate, the often-devastating effect of chemotherapy. While there is usually still some hair loss with cold cap therapy, two-thirds of selected patients are able to keep more than half of their hair. Currently, UMGCCC offers many different solid tumor patients the opportunity to use a cold cap during chemotherapy.

NCCN (National Comprehensive Cancer Network) Guidelines recommend scalp cooling as a treatment option for patients with invasive breast cancer.

To learn more about cold caps, please call 410-328-7855, option 1.

What Is a Cold Cap?

The cold cap is a close-fitting silicone cap filled with a gel coolant and attached to a machine that continuously cools the scalp during treatment. This feels very cold for the first 10 minutes or so of each treatment, but most patients report that it becomes much less noticeable after that.

How Cold Cap Therapy Works

The process of scalp cooling during chemotherapy constricts (narrows) the blood vessels in the scalp keeping the medication, which typically goes to all parts of the body, from reaching the hair follicles at high amounts. By lowering the temperature of the scalp immediately before, during, and after chemotherapy, the scalp cooling reduces blood flow to the area around the hair follicles, which may prevent or minimize hair loss.

There is a 30-minute cooling down period before chemotherapy begins and a 90-minute warming up at the end. Also, cold cap users receive a kit including items such as: their own cooling cap and cover, headband to reduce discomfort, spray bottle to moisturize hair, detangling hairbrush, sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner, hair care instructions, towel to dry hair and cap, and a pay-for-use token.

At UMGCCC, we offer patients the opportunity to purchase a cold cap from our vendor Paxman USA. Our nurse navigators or nurse coordinators custom fit the cap for the patient. Paxman contacts the patient to complete enrollment and sends the cap kit directly to them. Then the patient brings it to each chemotherapy session. We store the Paxman machines that work with the cold cap, and our infusion nurses operate the machines during chemotherapy.

Cold Cap Cost and Insurance Coverage

Cold cap therapy is currently a self-pay treatment. It is a transaction between the patient and Paxman. Patients buy the cap and pay a fee for each treatment.

Health insurance coverage for scalp cooling is not yet standard. However, Paxman reports that, in some cases, claims submitted for reimbursement for scalp cooling treatment costs were paid, depending on the specific coverage of the patient's health plan. Additionally, patients with flexible spending accounts (FSA) or health savings accounts (HSA) should check with their account administrator as cold cap therapy may be a covered expense.