Cooling cap helps more cancer patients save their hair

BALTIMORE, Md. -- Scalp cooling has been used in one form or another for the past few years to help some cancer patients preserve hair, but those devices were limited to certain patients with breast cancer only. Doctors now say cooling is effective for people battling a wider variety of cancers.

Inside this small suitcase are all the tools Terri Buckler needed to save her hair while she was undergoing the treatments designed to save her life.

"A regular 3D mammogram caught this cancer. I could not feel anything. My doctor could not feel anything," Buckler said.

Buckler needed chemo followed by radiation with a drug that would cause hair loss. It's one side effect her doctor had a solution for.

"They're dealing with so many other things. If you can take that off their plate, that's the good thing," David Riseberg, MD, a Medical Oncologist at Mercy Medical Center said.

A silicone cooling cap with gel covered Buckler's scalp, another cover kept it snug.

Nurses connected the cap to the Paxman Cooling System. It lowers the temperature of the scalp, causing the blood vessels to constrict.

"That prevents the chemotherapy from getting to the hair follicles and can reduce the amount of hair loss," said Riseberg.

This procedure was approved for just breast cancer patients until earlier this year. In addition to breast cancer, the FDA has now expanded its use for patients with ovarian, colorectal and prostate cancers. From Buckler's first to her last chemo treatment most people couldn't see the difference.

"I never used a scarf, I never covered my head. I was always able to style my hair to where if there was a small bald spot, I could hide it," said Buckler.

Preserving peace of mind during a tough treatment to restore a patient's health.

Cooling systems are still not FDA-approved for pediatric patients, patients with leukemia or blood cancer, head and neck cancer and some skin cancers. It is also not covered by insurance. Terri says the cap cost $500, and each treatment was $200 out of pocket. She needed four chemo treatments.