Hair cryotherapy is a preventive treatment that has proven to be effective in preventing chemotherapy-induced hair loss. This therapy improves the quality of life of cancer patients, reducing their discomfort and making it easier for them to live with the disease and to cope with the treatment. This service is currently offered at the Hospital Clínic Barcelona’s Plató site. At present, there is only one machine, which was donated by a family. It is not offered in all types of cancer, only for a very specific type of patient, as indicated in international guidelines. However, the aim is to gradually expand its use as new scientific evidence becomes available.
This treatment began to be offered at the Hospital Clínic’s Plató site on 22 March 2023, and 22 people have already benefited from it. In order to assess the impact on patients, a survey is carried out before and after treatment, to evaluate expectations and its impact on their quality of life. It is currently offered to people receiving a specific type of chemotherapy, which are generally regimens that are used in breast and ovarian cancer, as those are the ones recommended by international guidelines. However, in the future it is hoped to expand the list of candidate patients, so that more people can benefit from the treatment.
Hair cryotherapy is a preventive treatment that involves cooling the scalp, normally through a cold cap, which is connected to a machine. With the cold, the blood vessels contract, reducing the amount of chemotherapy that reaches the hair follicles. In this way, its effect on the hair is lessened and hair loss is reduced. This treatment has shown satisfactory results in reducing the amount of hair loss -less than 50% hair loss in some cases- and, consequently, also reduces the negative impact of chemotherapy on the quality of life of those receiving it. No side effects have been described in the use of this therapy, except in patients who have migraines, as it can worsen the attacks, although this has been described in very few cases.
Cryotherapy is performed on the same day as the chemotherapy. Normally, the cold cap is worn before, during and after the chemotherapy treatment, although the length of time before and after will depend on the type of treatment being given. At the start of the therapy, some people may experience an unpleasant sensation or feel cold. However, the symptoms are bearable and the cold can be minimised with blankets or warm clothing.
Chemotherapy-induced hair loss is one of the side effects of chemotherapy that can have a negative impact on the patient’s self esteem and social relationships. Offering this type of secondary therapy for chemotherapy makes it easier for people to live with the disease and to cope better with chemotherapy.