, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 181-189,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Scalp cooling to prevent chemotherapy-induced hair loss: practical and clinical considerations

Abstract

Objective

The objective of this prospective multicenter study was to obtain insight into the severity and burden of hair loss among cancer patients treated with chemotherapy. In addition, we described the effectiveness and burden of scalp cooling and the satisfaction with wigs, with hair regrowth, and with body image.

Materials and methods

Breast cancer patients treated with (n = 98) and without (n = 168) scalp cooling completed questionnaires before chemotherapy and 3 weeks and 6 months after completion of chemotherapy.

Results

Scalp cooling was effective in preventing chemotherapy-induced hair loss in 32 of 62 available patients (52%). Even though patients knew hair loss was temporary, it was a burden to 54% of them (n = 100). Scalp cooling was a burden for only 17 out of 51 patients (33%). Most patients who used a wig or head cover were satisfied with it (82%, n = 126). Patients were moderately satisfied with the regrowth of their hair after chemotherapy (mean 11.6; SD 2.53; range 0–20). Successfully cooled patients rated their hair as less important for their body image compared to patients who did experience hair loss (p = 0.014).

Discussion

Chemotherapy-induced hair loss is perceived as burdensome. It may be prevented by offering scalp cooling which is often an effective method to prevent this form of hair loss and is tolerated well by patients. However, if possible, scalp-cooling techniques should be improved and their effectiveness should be increased because if scalp cooling is unsuccessful, patients’ rate their hair loss as more burdensome compared to noncooled patients.

Mols and Hurk contributed equally to this work.