Up to this day, chemotherapy has been the most reliable cancer treatment. 73.8% of cancer cases are treated with this technique (2015 figure). One of the major objectives of this method is to prevent cancer cells from replicating. Therapeutic molecules injected into the patient's blood stop the procedure of cell renewal.
Chemotherapy has a major disadvantage: the intervention is generalized. The drugs do not make difference between healthy and cancer cells and side effects are tangible. The most common problem observed during treatment is massive and progressive hair loss.
Prevention of alopecia during chemotherapy: use of cooling helmets
A solution that seems to be the right one, with so much at stake
Cell renewal is crucial for the formation of the hair fiber and the proper functioning of the bulb. It is the perpetual self-regeneration of the hair follicle that speeds up the hair's normal life cycle, namely the anagen phase (formation of the hair shaft), catagen (loss of cuticle density) and telogen (normal hair loss). Once stopped by chemotherapy, this phenomenon will accelerate hair loss.
Alopecia is, unfortunately, the reason why some patients refuse chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. The point is that if untreated, cancer leads to death. This is why scientists, male and female, are striving to prevent and treat hair loss during cancer treatment.
A solution has been proposed: the use a cooling helmet to reduce and avoid alopecia during chemotherapy. The purpose of this device will be to spare the hair root during the process. The basic principle is simple. By using cold on the entire scalp, this tool closes its blood vessels and prevents therapeutic molecules from reaching the bulbs. This prevents hair loss.
A technique that comes with high risks though
Opinions are divided, some oncologists accept the use of the cooling helmet during chemotherapy and others are more reluctant. They are all unanimous on one thing; the use of this machine prevents and reduces hair loss. The downside of the method is that it also increases the risk of cancer recurrence and hinders the treatment of certain types of cancer.
Infected cells can be trapped in blood vessels during helmet use. Not targeted by drug molecules, these cancer cells continue to multiply and can infect the body again.
A recent American study showed that mutations in hair root pigment cells are at the origin of melanoma (skin cancer). Melanoma treatment requires chemotherapy. In this context, using a refrigerating helmet to avoid alopecia will prevent the drug molecules from working in the area which is most infected by the disease.
Living better with alopecia after chemotherapy
Losing hair is traumatic
The Hair is a reflection of health. In most cases, the hair fiber does not grow back after drug treatment even if cancer is completely cured. A person who has suffered significant hair loss and has to live with it is likely to keep on feeling sick. They will only be able to return to a normal life if their hair problem is solved.
Getting back one’s hair is the best solution
Solutions exist to fix this issue. The individual can mask his or her skull with a wig. Any d'Avray, a renowned brand, offers natural and synthetic wigs that actually look like real hair. But the major disadvantage of this solution is the discomfort during use. These hats tend to heat the scalp.
A substitute for the toupee has recently been developed: the franjynes. A combination of a beautiful fringe and a soft fabric that is put on the head to hide the smooth skull. Although comfortable and pretty, Franjyne is still a temporary solution. Wearing a franjyne to play the game of pretence. At some point, it will have to be removed and the person will be faced again with the sad reality.
The most logical and appropriate solution is to find a way to get the hair to grow back. The only treatments that are able to achieve this so far are the Redactiv treatments from the Laboratoire Renascor.