Information for Patients
Hair Loss Matters
For breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, hair loss has traditionally been considered an inevitable side effect. For many patients, the prospect of losing their hair is more than just a matter of vanity. It’s an unwelcome reminder of their disease for the patient and their families – one that can negatively impact self-image, confidence and an overall sense of wellbeing.
The DigniCap® scalp cooling system was developed out of a deep commitment to help patients preserve their privacy and regain some control with a technology that has the potential to diminish the added emotional burden from hair loss.
Rigorous clinical research has proven that the DigniCap® scalp cooling system is effective for many breast cancer patients, enabling them to preserve most or all of their hair throughout their chemotherapy.
DigniCap®: The first scalp cooling system cleared by the FDA for use in the United States
DigniCap® is already used successfully outside the United States. Now, for the first time, FDA clearance paves the way for infusion centers across the U.S. to offer breast cancer patients scalp cooling treatment using the DigniCap® system at the same time as they receive their chemotherapy treatments.
DigniCap® – The Intelligent Scalp Cooling System™
The DigniCap® system consists of a snug-fitting silicone cooling cap connected to a computer-operated cooling and control unit. Coolant continuously circulates through channels in the cap, cooling the scalp during chemotherapy. A sophisticated system of sensors ensures that optimal temperature is continuously maintained throughout treatment. The DigniCap® system lowers scalp temperature which in turn helps protect hair follicles from the damaging effects of chemo by reducing blood flow and cell metabolism.
- DigniCap® is the first scalp cooling system to achieve U.S. FDA clearance
- Major advancement in comfort and convenience compared with non-FDA cleared manual cold caps (compare DigniCap® with manual cold caps)
- Used successfully by thousands of patients around the world for more than a decade
Click here for detailed information about scalp cooling and DigniCap®.
What to expect during your DigniCap® Treatment
The DigniCap® scalp cooling system will be used at each cycle on the day of chemotherapy administration.
The silicone cooling cap will be fitted to your head by the infusion center staff 30 minutes before you start the chemotherapy treatment (pre-infusion cooling time). A neoprene outer cap will then be placed over the silicone cap to provide insulation and to help ensure a snug fit.
You will wear the cap throughout your chemotherapy infusion (infusion cooling time), and for a set period after the completion of chemotherapy treatment (post-infusion cooling time). The silicone cap is connected to the cooling and control unit; therefore, you are required to stay next to the system during the scalp cooling treatment. It is possible to disconnect the cap from the system for short breaks, e.g., for rest room visits. During the break, the cooling cap with its outer neoprene cap remains on your head.
Depending on chemotherapy drug and dose, the post-infusion cooling time will last for 30-150 minutes. Once post-infusion cooling is complete, the cap will be kept on your head for 15 minutes as the cap warms up to diminish any discomfort.
Scalp Cooling with the DigniCap® scalp cooling system – Step-By-Step
Step 1: Cap Sizing and Fitting
It is important that the silicone cap is fitted very closely to the scalp (i.e., over the entire area of hair). Any air trapped between the scalp and the cap has an insulating effect, which may negatively affect the cooling and results. To ensure a good fit you will try different sizes of caps, before the first scalp cooling treatment. The cooling cap is available in four different sizes, XS, S, M and L.
Recommendation: During the scalp cooling treatment the number of breaks from cooling should be held to a minimum. It’s recommend that you go to the rest room before you start scalp cooling.
Step 2: Wetting the Hair
Before fitting the cap, wet your hair thoroughly with water to improve the thermal contact between your scalp and the cooling cap. Once wet, comb your hair flat.
Recommendation: Wash your hair with a gentle shampoo at home prior to the scalp cooling/chemotherapy session. Greasy hair may affect the thermal contact.
Step 3: Applying the Cooling Cap
First the silicone cap is applied and then the neoprene outer cap is placed over it.
Step 4: Connecting the Cap to the Cooling Unit
The cooling cap will now be connected to the cooling and control unit.
Step 5: Commencement of the Scalp Cooling Treatment
Once the cooling cap is connected to the system, the scalp cooling treatment can begin. The cooling and control unit is operated by the hospital personnel. When the treatment starts, the temperature on the scalp gradually decreases from room temperature to the target temperature of 37-41° F (3-5° C).
Step 6: Completion
After completion of the post-infusion cooling time, the cooling cap remains on your scalp for another 15 minutes to allow the temperature to slowly increase to diminish any discomfort. Once the cap has been removed, avoid a sudden increase of scalp temperature and blood-flow by letting your hair dry naturally.
How should I take care of my hair while undergoing Dignicap treatment?
The DigniCap® scalp cooling system offers you the chance to keep your hair during chemotherapy. However, chemotherapy can cause scalp irritation and cause your hair to become dry, brittle and more difficult to manage. The following recommendations will help insure you get the best results from your Dignicap treatment:
- Wash your hair at home prior to the scalp cooling/chemotherapy session. Greasy hair may affect the thermal contact. However, avoid daily shampooing. Shampoo less if your hair begins to feel dry
- Use lukewarm water (avoid hot water) and gentle shampoo
- Avoid applying heat to hair with appliances such as blow-dryers, curling irons, straightening irons, and hot rollers. Let your hair dry naturally as much as possible.
- Avoid applying products that contain harsh chemicals to your hair such as the following:
- Peroxides for hair coloring
- Perms to curl or straighten hair
- Parabens (such a methylparaben and propylparaben) that are commonly used as preservatives in hair products
- Sodium laurel sulfate is a foaming agent and will remove natural oils in the hair
- Silicones that are commonly used to tame or “de-frizz” the hair
- Limit brushing or combing of hair to once or twice a day. It’s recommended that you use a wide tooth comb
- Avoid hair accessories such as rubber bands and headbands that pull on the hair
Disclaimer: No scalp cooling system can guarantee results, and even when using scalp cooling most patients lose at least a small amount of their hair. Each patient is different, and chemotherapy regimens vary as well. We recommend you consult with your oncologist when evaluating the use of the Dignicap system or any other scalp cooling system.
HAIR CARE BROCHURE (pdf)
Availability of financial assistance
For patients with a household income at or below the Federal Poverty Level unable to afford the cost of scalp cooling in need of financial assistance, please go to www.hairtostay.org/apply-for-a-subsidy and fill out the online form. HairToStay will not reimburse any expenses incurred before approval.
Find out where the DigniCap® scalp cooling system is currently available.