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Medical Miracles: Scalp Cooling

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Maddie Raffel, a senior at Monona Grove High School (class of 2018), is planning on majoring in political science with hopes of becoming a lawyer in the future. She has known many family members and friends with cancer and has seen how hair loss can affect cancer patients.

Scalp Cooling for Chemotherapy-Induced Hair Loss

Medical Miracle

Hair loss caused by chemotherapy has one of the biggest impacts on cancer patients, emotionally and physically. Before 2017, chemotherapy-induced hair loss has been an accepted issue by cancer patients. There has been no treatment for it, so cancer patients have learned to deal with and accept the loss of their hair from chemotherapy, by using wigs or scarfs. Going through hair loss has been taking a huge emotional toll on cancer patients ever since chemotherapy was developed in the 1940’s. The development of scalp cooling has been groundbreaking for stopping hair loss in cancer patients. Half of cancer patients who use an FDA approved cooling cap are able to keep more than 50% of their hair.

Significant Discovery

The earliest stage of a hypothermia cap was simply crushed ice in a bag. The history of scalp cooling goes back about 30 years. 56 trials were conducted from 1973-2003, and much more are coming out currently. The first patent was filed by Mark Barron in 1979 for the Chemo-Cap. The Chemo-Cap contained frozen, gel-filled nylon pouches which were frozen then worn for 15 minutes before chemotherapy treatment. Studies for the Chemo-Cap and other similar caps back then were not sufficient enough to prove success. The patent expired for the Chemo-Cap in 1998, but more and more studies have come out since then. There are now many approved brands of hypothermia caps and there is now an averaged 73% success rate.

Emerging Innovations

There are now 57 cancer centers in the United States that use some sort of scalp cooling method to prevent hair loss. As scalp cooling is used primarily in breast cancer patients that are women, as scalp cooling becomes more common, more males will become aware of this process and start using it. As more studies come out, the number of people taking advantage of them is increasing.


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Social Impact

  Positive Effects   Negative Effects

Less hair loss after chemotherapy, patients feel emotionally better about themselves

A temporary headache, temporary dizziness, sometimes the quality of the hair preserved is not optimal

More rewarding for staff to see their cancer patient keep their hair, less emotionally tolling on staff

More expensive to train staff on how to provide this treatment


Approved by ethics commission


Cleared by FDA in 2017

Not covered by most insurances, room for new legislation to have insurance cover scalp cooling treatment


Decreased cost for patients in places where they would normally buy wigs and scarves

Increased overall cost, an unneeded treatment so most insurances would not cover it, patient pays out of pocket


Emotionally, and patient health-wise, scalp cooling is incredibly beneficial. Patients feel overall better about themselves, and it is rewarding for nurses and doctors to see them feeling like that. However, economically, scalp cooling is expensive. It can be up to $3000 in some cases, and most insurances do not cover it. 


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What do you think?

Have you heard of scalp cooling before?
Yes: 1 votes (20%)
No: 4 votes (80%)
Total Votes: 5
Do you know someone who has or is going through chemotherapy treatment?
Yes: 3 votes (60%)
No: 2 votes (40%)
Total Votes: 5
How likely would you be to recommend scalp cooling to someone who is going through chemotherapy?
Not likely: 0 votes (0%)
Somewhat likely: 1 votes (14.29%)
Likely: 1 votes (14.29%)
Very likely: 5 votes (71.43%)
Total Votes: 7

Future Directions

More and more people will begin scalp cooling to reduce hair loss during chemotherapy, especially after the FDA approval in 2017. However, scalp cooling is most readily available for people who are able to spend money easily. In the future, I hope that scalp cooling will be covered by most if not all insurances. Patients deserve to keep their hair if they want to, as it adds immense emotional benefits. Chemotherapy is not only physically tolling, but emotionally tolling as well. Anything that could help a patient feel better about themselves is worth a try.

Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin

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