Breast cancer patients say 'cold capping' saved their hair. What is it and why aren't more people doing it?

It took four years for Nikki Cox to grow her hair back to its original length after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016.

During those years, Cox, a 35-year-old from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, was reminded of her battle every day when she looked in the mirror, tied on a scarf or scratched at her itchy wig.

Cox had just begun to close that ugly chapter of her life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer again in May 2020.

This time, she was determined to salvage 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.”

She decided to try scalp-cooling therapy after finding a flyer hidden between the stack of papers she received from her oncologist. By the end ofher recent treatment, Cox had saved 90-95% of her hair.

“The whole time I was in treatment, I never wore a wig. I never had to wear a scarf,” Cox said. “I didn’t look like what I was going through.”

Nikki Cox, 35, saved 90 to 95% of her hair during chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer with scalp cooling therapy.

Scalp cooling is available to all cancer patients except those battling leukemia or certain other blood-related cancers, but health experts say many people don’t know the option exists. And for those familiar with the process, the high cost and spotty insurance coverage can put the option out of reach.

Cancer patients, survivors and advocates want to create more awareness about scalp cooling therapy and the effect hair has on a patient’s mental health, emotional health and their recovery process. As more people learn about cold capping, they hope more insurance companies will see the value in providing coverage or reimbursement.

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