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Columbus Dispatch: Cold Caps are helping cancer patients keep their hair

Cancer impacts many aspects of a patient’s life. When it impacts their physical appearance it can take away the power and control they once might have felt they had over their body.

When a cancer patient loses their hair they not only lose a part of themselves, they lose a sense of control and confidence.

When Jen Tassi, a breast cancer patient at the OhioHealth Arthur G.H. Bing Cancer Center was beginning chemotherapy, she discovered a new technology called “cold capping” that could help her have control over something during her treatment – her hair. A cold cap fits tight on someone’s head like a helmet and cools their head during chemotherapy. This cooling technology can allow a patient to retain some hair that might be lost without the cool cap.

“It was a huge thing to look at yourself in the mirror every day and not look like I was sick,” Tassi told Columbus Dispatch reporter JoAnne Viviano. “You looked like a healthy person, so you kind of felt like a healthy person, or you didn’t look like a cancer patient when you were out.”

According to the Polar Cold Caps website, the cap itself constricts the blood vessels keeping the chemotherapy medicine from affecting the hair follicles. The cold from the cap slows down the in the metabolism of the hair follicles and keeps the cells dormant during the process blocking the chemotherapeutic medicine.

When other patients, like Tassi, reached out to providers for increased awareness of the cold caps, OhioHealth began working with other care sites to get the word out to patients.

According to Pauline Russ, the system program director for cancer services at OhioHealth and also a breast cancer survivor, OhioHealth is making it easier for patients who are interested to find cold caps. Associates from OhioHealth cancer services pulled together a committee aimed to share information about them with medical providers. Bethany Golden, the owner of Over My Head Boutique at the Bing Cancer Center, has agreed to connect interested patients with available cold cap services.

“You want to be able to compartmentalize what is happening to you. So, the cancer and the treatment of it is one part of your life, but you don’t want it to become your identity,” Russ told Viviano. “You want to blend in as much as possible.”

To learn more about cancer services at OhioHealth, click here.

To read more about Tassi’s experience with cold caps, click on the Columbus Dispatch logo.