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Your Healthy Family: How does DigniCap reduce hair loss during chemo?

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COLORADO SPRINGS -

UCHealth Memorial is using a new treatment that can help women keep much of their hair during chemotherapy.

Anne Varevice is a registered nurse on the outpatient infusion unit who said every advantage a cancer patient can get can make a difference.

“It's really great for patients to be able to wake up in the morning and not have that glaring reminder when they look in the mirror that says I'm sick," Varevice said. "Instead  they can focus on the other things going on in their lives and they can still be moms and employees and caregivers and fill all the roles that they were feeling prior to their cancer diagnosis.”

The DigniCap is basically a high-tech cold cap, which can decrease the effect chemotherapy drugs have on hair follicles.

“It decreases the blood flow to your head into your scalp so all the cells surrounding your hair follicles, and it decreases the amount of chemotherapy drug that can reach those follicles, and thereby it decreasing the amount of hair you lose or hair that's damaged by the chemotherapy,"

Varevice said patients usually have to come in the day before treatment for a cap fitting.  "We'll have them come in for their first chemo appointment, they come in a little early and we will get that cap on them," She said. "We wet their hair, get that cap on securely and then there's about 30 minutes of pre-cooling prior to chemotherapy." 

Varevice said the device lowers the temperature down to about 37 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Patients are also required to follow a strict hair car regiment, which Tiffany Daniels, the first patient to use the DigniCap at UCHealth Memorial, explained for us.

“I cannot use conditioner, I cannot use hair gels,  you pretty much have to use a Peraben-free and Sulfate-free shampoo twice a week," Daniels said. "In between just rinse with cooler water just be gentle to your hair,” Daniels said.

"We've just seen a lot of improvements with cancer treatment in the last several years especially breast cancer. As a result people can, women can, continue living fairly reasonably normal lives throughout treatment." Varevice said. "One of the ways that we can help women live more full lives while they're being treated for breast cancer is by helping them kind of maintain this normalcy, and body image is a huge portion of that.”

Anne said patients don't usually keep all their hair, but the hair loss is less than going through chemotherapy without the treatment. Currently UCHealth Memorial is raising funds to offset some of the costs of the DigniCap. Co-pay assistance is based on federal poverty guidelines and a sliding scale. 

If you'd like to help out, you can donate to a fund to assist patients by calling the Memorial Hospital foundation, at 719-365-1461, or send an email to mhfoundation@uchealth.org, or click here to donate online.

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