It took Nikki Cox four years to get her hair back to its original length after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016.
In those years, Cox, 35, of Alicippa, Pennsylvania, remembered his battle when he looked in the mirror every day, tied his handkerchief, or scratched his itchy wig.
When he was again diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2020, Cox began to cover the worst part of his life.
This time she was determined to save her hair.
“My hair was an important part of my healing and mental health,” she said. “I wanted to feel good on the outside, knowing what I was going through on the inside.”
He found a sheet hidden among the papers he had received from the oncologist and decided to undergo therapy to cool his scalp. Until the endhis latest treatment, Cox had saved 90-95% of his hair.
“I never wore a wig while I was being treated. I should never have worn a headscarf,” Cox said. “I didn’t look like what I was going through.”
Scalp cooling is present in all cancers except leukemia or other blood-related cancers, but health experts say many are unaware of this option. And for those familiar with the process, the high cost and flawless insurance coverage can make the option a no-brainer.
Cancer patients, survivors, and advocates want to know more about scalp cooling therapy and hair effects on a patient’s mental health, emotional health, and their impact on the recovery process. As more people learn about cold restrictions, more and more insurance companies are hoping to see the value of insurance coverage or premiums.
“Every time we get an email, we’re embarrassed:‘ I got chemotherapy for the first time and heard about cold hats – is it too late to save my hair? “Unfortunately, it’s too late,” said Nancy Marshall, one of the founders of the Rapunzel project.
During scalp cooling therapy — also known as cap cooling — the patient wears a special cap on his head before, during, and after chemotherapy sessions to freeze his head and prevent hard chemicals from falling on the hair follicles.
“The way chemotherapy works is that it tries to kill cancer cells, and at the same time, some of them kill healthy cells, especially cells that rotate as fast as hair,” said Dr. Lynn Jeffers, former president of the American Society. Plastic surgeons and medical director at Dignity Health Breast Center at St. John’s Camarillo Hospital. “If you slow down your hair’s metabolism in the cold … the cells you slow down don’t do chemotherapy.”
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Cox used a scalp cooling system from a company called Dignitana, which was offered through the hospital and controlled the temperature of the cap by machine. The company’s DigniCap product has been refined by the Food and Drug Administration, and studies show that it is 67% effective in keeping at least 50 percent of patients ’hair.
“The study found that 8 percent of women give up chemistry for fear of hair loss,” said Melissa Bourestom, a spokeswoman for Dignitana. “It’s a very scary statistic for us because, of course, you’re treating your cancer.”
Other patients prefer manual cooling of the scalp, which is offered by companies such as Penguin, where dry ice-soaked hats are tied around the patient’s head and replaced every 20 minutes by a friend, family member, or professional “cold cap”. ‘rishadi.
Danniel Leigh hired a “cold kepper” through Right Arm Inc. when he was diagnosedbreast cancerDuring the COVID-19 pandemic and was unable to bring friends or family members to the infusion center.
“It was a complete support system that kept my hair and did everything my boyfriend or mom would do,” said Leigh, who lives in New Jersey. “It wasn’t part of my decision, but looking back now was great for me because I wasn’t alone.”
Cox and Leigh have been successful in wearing cold, but health experts warn that hair savings are never guaranteed, especially among patients undergoing severe chemotherapy. It is also a time consuming, labor intensive and cumbersome process.
But for many women, gambling is worth it.
“It felt so good to be in control of something,” Leigh said. “I couldn’t control my cancer diagnosis, I couldn’t control what was changing my life, but I could control my hair.”
Cox was getting married during the treatment and wanted to feel like a traditional bride on her wedding day. Her children were younger when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, but she is too old to understand what her second diagnosis means.
“My family made a lot of diagnoses and I didn’t want them to associate cancer with baldness or death,” she said. “I did my best to make myself look as normal as possible, so I wouldn’t hurt them less.”
Scalp cooling therapy is expensive. Patients pay to buy or rent a cooling cap and use each chemotherapy session, which is on average dozens of times more depending on the type and severity of the cancer.
For manual freezing, patients are responsible for dry ice, as well as the cost of training to replace the lid of a loved one. If they don’t have someone who can do the job, professional coolness can be around $ 300 per session.
Lane said her total bill is $ 8,000. He asks the insurance company to pay.
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“Maybe I could get my money back, but even if I didn’t have to do it again, I would definitely do it,” he said. “I have to keep my dignity. I usually don’t think I can … It’s going to be very expensive.”
Although some insurance companies are improving insurance coverage and refunds, many patients are struggling to get it. Overflowing with other medical expenses, people oftenvery tired of arguing with insurance companies and dismissing the claim.
The Rapunzel project provides a list of diagnostic codes that patients can provide to an insurance company. Codes can help, but Marshall said coverage isn’t the sameand often only applies to cold-covered rentals.
“It’s an inefficient and unnecessarily expensive system,” he said. “Chemical hair loss or the devastating side effects of chemotherapy-induced alopecia-cancer. Patients deserve financial support to prevent or prevent CIA.”
Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
Health and patient safety is partly achieved through a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial information.