It has taken four years since Nikki Cox was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 before her hair returned to its original length.
Meanwhile, 35-year-old Cox from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, recalled his daily battle by looking in the mirror, tying him in a scarf, and scratching his itchy wig.
Cox had just begun to close the ugly chapter of her life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer again in May 2020.
This time she decided to save her hair.
“My hair was an important part of my healing and mental health,” she said. “I wanted to know what I was experiencing inside and feel good outside.”
After finding a leaflet hidden between a stack of papers she received from an oncologist, she decided to try scalp cooling therapy.By the end ofWith her recent treatment, Cox saved 90-95% of her hair.
“I never wore a wig during my treatment. I didn’t have to wear a scarf,” Cox said. “I didn’t look like what I was experiencing.”
Scalp cooling, also known as cold capping, is available to all cancer patients except those who fight leukemia and certain other blood-related cancers, but health professionals have many options. Say you don’t know that. And for those familiar with the process, the high and uneven coverage of insurance can make options out of reach.
Cancer patients, survivors, and supporters want to be more aware of scalp cooling and the effects of hair on their mental and emotional health and their recovery process. As more people learn about cold capping, they want more insurers to understand the value of offering compensation or reimbursement.
“We crouch every time we receive an email saying,’I just received my first chemotherapy and I just heard about cold caps. Is it too late to save my hair?’ Sadly, it’s too late. ” Nancy Marshall, co-founder of the Rapunzel Project, a non-profit organization that raises awareness of cold capping, said.
During scalp cooling, patients wear special caps with straps on their heads before, during, and after chemotherapy sessions to keep their heads cool and prevent harsh chemotherapy from reaching the hair follicles. ..
“The way chemotherapy works is to try to kill cancer cells while at the same time killing healthy cells, especially those that turn over quickly, like hair,” said Lynn Jeffers, a former president of the American Society. The doctor says. A plastic surgeon and medical director of the Dignity Health Integrated Breast Center at St. John’s Camarillo Hospital. “If you slow down your hair metabolism with a cold … the slowed cells don’t take much chemotherapy.”
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Cox used a scalp cooling system from a company called Dignitana provided by her hospital to mechanically regulate the temperature of the cap. The company’s product, DigniCap, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and studies have shown that it is 67% effective in saving at least 50% of a patient’s hair.
“A study was conducted that found that 8% of women stopped chemotherapy for fear of hair loss,” said Melissa Boulestom, a spokesman for Dignitana. “Of course, the most important thing is that you are treating cancer, so that’s a very scary statistic for us.”
Other patients place a head cap submerged in dry ice on the patient’s head and replace it with a friend, family member, or professional “cold capper” every 20 minutes, manual scalp cooling provided by companies such as penguins. Choose.
Dannielle Leigh hired a “cold capper” when he was diagnosed with Right Arm Inc.breast cancerDuring the COVID-19 pandemic, I was unable to take my friends and family to the infusion center.
Lee, a New Jersey resident, said, “It was a complete support system … someone saved my hair and did everything my boyfriend and my mother would do.” .. “It wasn’t part of my decision, but looking back, it was great for me because I wasn’t alone.”
Cox and Lee have been successful in cold capping, but health experts warn that hair savings are never guaranteed, especially among patients undergoing harsh chemotherapy. It’s also a time-consuming, labor-intensive and unpleasant process.
But for many women, it’s worth gambling.
“I felt really, really good to be able to control something,” Lee said. “I couldn’t control the fact that I was diagnosed with cancer, I couldn’t control my life being upside down, but I said I kept my hair I was able to control the facts. ”
Cox was married during treatment and wanted to feel like a traditional bride on her wedding day. Her children were young when they were first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, but are now old enough to understand the implications of a second diagnosis.
“My family was very struggling with my diagnosis and didn’t want to associate cancer with trichotillomania or death,” she said. “I will do whatever I can to make myself look as normal as possible, and I can reduce the trauma to them.”
However, scalp cooling therapy is expensive. Patients buy or rent a cooling cap and pay to use the machine for each chemotherapy session. This can average dozens of times, depending on the type and severity of the cancer.
With manual cool capping, the patient bears the cost of dry ice and training for a loved one to change the cap. Professional cold cappers can cost about $ 300 per session if they don’t have anyone available to do the job.
According to Lee, her total bill was $ 8,000. She will ask the insurance company for a refund.
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“Maybe I’ll aim to get some money back, but I didn’t, and if I had to try it again, I would definitely do it,” she said. Told. “I had to keep the dignity that I wouldn’t normally be able to … it’s worth a lot.”
Some insurance companies are improving coverage and reimbursement, but many patients have to fight to get it.Overwhelmed by other medical costs, people oftenYou will be too tired to negotiate with your insurance company and will withdraw your insurance claim.
The Rapunzel Project provides a list of diagnostic codes that patients can provide to insurance companies.The code may be useful, but Marshall said the coverage was inconsistentOften only applies to cold cap rentals.
“It’s an inefficient and unnecessarily expensive system,” she said. “Chemotherapy hair loss, or chemotherapy alopecia, is a catastrophic side effect of cancer treatment. Patients deserve financial support to deal with or prevent CIA.”
Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY was partially made possible by grants from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition for Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.
Cold capping, scalp cooling help
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