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Napa hospital's chemo ‘cap’ helps patients keep their hair

For many cancer patients, losing their hair as a result of chemotherapy is a very unwelcome and regular reminder of the disease they’re fighting.

Scott Lambert agrees.

A year ago, Lambert underwent chemotherapy treatment at the Providence Queen of the Valley Medical Center.

However, Lambert didn't go bald. 

That’s because Lambert made use of a new head “cooling” system that works to minimize hair loss from chemotherapy.

Called the DigniCap Scalp Cooling System, it’s now available at the Napa hospital.

“I thought it was just awful, the prospect of losing my hair,” said Lambert about deciding to use the DigniCap.

“He didn’t want to look like a cancer patient with a bald head,” said Lambert’s wife, Laura.

“You want to look in the mirror and look normal,” said Laura. “It’s been very important for maintaining a positive outlook. And for a positive outlook, you need to look your best and that involves keeping your hair.”

FDA-cleared since 2015, DigniCap works to minimize hair loss from certain chemotherapy treatments for women and men with solid tumors such as those associated with breast, ovarian, uterine, prostate, and other tissues, according to a news release from the Queen. 

The DigniCap Scalp Cooling System consists of a computerized cooling unit managed through a touch screen display and an attached cooling cap.

The cap is fitted to the head, and temperature-regulated coolant continuously circulates through specially-designed channels in the cooling cap.

By lowering the temperature of the scalp, those blood vessels are constricted which reduces the delivery of chemotherapy to the scalp.

Together with other factors including “reduced cellular uptake” of the chemo drugs, the risk of chemotherapy-induced hair loss is reduced, the release said. 

“For many patients hair loss is a very troublesome side effect of chemotherapy,” said Birha McCann, RN. She’s a nurse navigator at the Queen's cancer center.

“DigniCap provides patients with a means to reduce hair loss from chemotherapy, maintaining a sense of privacy and self-esteem,” said McCann.

Results from one clinical trial indicate that seven out of 10 patients using the DigniCap system kept at least 50% of their hair.

“We believe this is a significant advantage in caring for the whole patient and are proud to make this technology available to patients at the Queen,” McCann said.

Lambert said the decision to undergo the “cold, but very tolerable” DigniCap treatment was an easy one.

“There was never any doubt,” said Lambert, who is 80.

“The pros outweighed the only con, which was my head was very cold during treatment. It was no different though than being in Boston or New York in the winter,” without a hat on, said Lambert.

What would he tell others who are going through chemotherapy and are eligible for the DigniCap treatment?

“They should do it if they want to keep their hair,” said Lambert. “It was very beneficial; no question about it. It really works.”

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You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

Related to this story

Terry Wooten got his first hospital job as a college student working the night shift in the ER. Today, he's the new head at Napa's Queen of the Valley Medical Center. 

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