Posted: 5:00 p.m. Monday, July 22, 2013
By Rick Couri
It’s called the DigniCap and while it can’t cure cancer it helps lift the spirits of those fighting the disease
Miriam Lipton is one of those people.
During the chemo treatments for her first bout with breast cancer, she quickly lost her hair.
When Miriam began her second fight the cap gave her something to smile about, she kept most of her thick, beautiful hair.
Most chemotherapy treatments cause patients to lose their hair because the medicine kills fast growing cells.
While the hair loss isn’t painful it does carry a large stigma and makes many patients self-conscious.
“I didn’t necessarily want to walk around the grocery store answering questions about my cancer,” Lipton, said. “If you look OK on the outside, it can help you feel, ‘OK, this is manageable, I can get through this.”
The cap works by numbing the scalp with cold. That reduced blood flow to the head and makes it tough for the chemo to damage the hair.
The cap hasn’t been approved in the US but trials in Canada and Europe have been promising.
The American Cancer Society isn’t sure. “Do they work and are they safe? Those are the two big holes. We just don’t know,” asked spokeswoman Kimberly Stump-Sutliff
Several doctors on the front lines think the cap is a valuable tool for several reasons. “Quite frankly, it’s the first or second question out of most patients’ mouths when I tell them I recommend chemotherapy. It’s not, ‘Is this going to cure me? It’s, ‘Am I going to lose my hair?’” noted Dr. Susan Melin of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Dr. Hope Rugo from the University of California, San Francisco, added “we need to make this experience as tolerable as possible, so there’s the least baggage at the end.”
Lipton admits the cap has drawbacks “it wasn’t perfect, but it was easier.”
Miriam had headaches and pain due to the cold and still lost some hair but said it was worth it “I felt normal much more quickly.”