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What to expect from scalp cooling

  • 5 Min. Read
  • 07/16/21

Scalp cooling is a therapy that helps some people lose less or no hair during chemotherapy treatment. Jen, Nicole, and Juliet all tried scalp cooling as they were going through treatment and share about their experiences and what they wish they had known.


Scalp cooling: Juliet's experience

We spoke with Juliet Osbourne about her experience using scalp cooling during chemotherapy treatment for metastatic breast cancer.

Juliet: Hello. I am Juliet Osborne and I am a 20 year breast cancer survivor. I was first diagnosed in January of 2001, and in 2012, I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer.

LBBC: Who told you about the potential for using scalp cooling? Why was keeping your hair important to you?

Juliet: I was introduced to the cold cap by my nurse practitioner because she knew how important it was for me not to lose my hair.

The reason why I chose the cold cap treatment is because it was just a body image scenario. I just could not deal with waking up and not seeing [my hair] and being bald. I just could not, that was one part of my treatment that I just could not face — the baldness. Therefore I am very happy with the treatment because I was able to keep my hair.

LBBC: Describe the scalp cooling process.

Juliet: There are three phases to the treatment: the pre-treatment, during the treatment, and after the treatment.

One of the things that I was not prepared for was during the pre-treatment, when the cap goes down to zero degrees centigrade, you really and truly get an instant headache and you feel like ripping the cap off. If I had somebody there to tell me to go through it, that would have really helped. They really do not prepare you for it.

Once the treatment is over, then they do the warming up process. For the warming up process, because I'm African American, they added [more time]. [The] first nurse, she added an additional 15 minutes, some nurses added half an hour. I remembered though why they did that, because with my first treatment, when they removed the cap, there was just ice all over my head. It had not melted. So they told me that I needed to cut my hair some more because it was so dense.

I think one of the downsides of the treatment was that there were not any considerations for African American women — ladies, like myself, with my hair. I think what they taught the nurses was with African American women you keep them on the cold cap longer. So because of the density of the hair [the process took longer]. I remembered my nurse saying to me, "You know, they say you don't have to cut your hair, but you need to cut your hair. You'd have to cut your hair for this treatment to be effective."

LBBC: Are you happy with the results of scalp cooling?

Juliet: I was told that because of the chemo I was on, I would lose [my hair]. I would see hair in the shower. I would see hair on my pillows, but I did not experience any of that at all. I lost my eyebrows, my eyelashes, and hair from every other part of my body, but I didn't see any hair on the pillow. I didn't see any coming out in the shower. None of that. My hair did get a little thinner and the texture of it had changed, but I was quite happy with the results of the cold capping. I really was satisfied. Would I recommend it to anyone? I wish every breast cancer patient that is going through this would be able to afford it.

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