Patients who undergo chemotherapy experience many side effects, but hair loss can be one of the most emotionally distressing. Now, a couple from the Netherlands have created what they say is an “improved” cooling cap that may prevent patients undergoing cancer treatment from losing their hair.

Chemotherapy is a method used to treat patients with various types of cancer. The treatment involves the use of anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs in an attempt to kill cancer cells.

According to the American Cancer Society, not all chemotherapy drugs will make a patient lose their hair, but it is one of the most common side effects.

Hair loss can occur 2-3 weeks following the start of treatment. Some patients will only have mild thinning of the hair, while others may experience complete hair loss. The hair will usually grow back after treatment has ceased, but it may come back as a different color or texture.

There are scalp cooling methods available that can help prevent hair loss as a result of chemotherapy. Cooling the scalp can stop the majority of the anti-cancer drugs from reaching the hair follicles, meaning the hair is less likely to fall out.

Current methods of scalp cooling involve a refrigerated cooling system that pumps a coolant in the form of a liquid into a cap that is placed on patients’ heads. Another method is use of a cooling cap that is filled with a chilled gel.

But Caroline van Wijngaarden, who underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer last year, says the existing cooling caps are not ideal.

“The current cap that is being used is a half round ball, does not cover the entire head, feels annoying and is not efficient enough, because it only works in 50% of the cases,” she says.

After coming to this conclusion from her own personal experience, Caroline and her husband, industrial designer Arie van Wijngaarden, decided to create an improved cooling cap.

The new cooling cap, called ChemoHairSaver, is made up of sensors in eight different sections, which continually measure and adjust the temperature. The creators say this provides “optimal scalp cooling,” leading them to believe the cap will be up to 70% effective.

Furthermore, they say the cap is more comfortable, as it is flexible and has a better fit on the head, compared with existing cooling caps.

The invention has captured a lot of interest from medical professionals and researchers worldwide, and the creation has even been nominated for the Ureka Mega Challenge Award of the University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU) in the Netherlands.

Commenting on the invention, Dr. Ir. J.J.M van der Hoeven of the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, says:

We need these kinds of innovations to improve the care for people with cancer.”

Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that scientists have discovered a way to improve common chemotherapy drug vinblastine.