JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A common concern that many cancer patients have undergoing chemotherapy involves losing their hair. In response, the Mayo Clinic has implemented new technology designed to help protect their patients' hair from falling out.
Dr. Sara Chumsri, a medical oncologist at Mayo Clinic said she has a hard time convincing her patients to get treatment because of this concern.
“Patients even decline or refuse lifesaving chemo therapy treatment just because they don’t want to lose their hair," she said.
Brandy Hourihan, who is currently fighting breast cancer, admitted she was concerned, too.
"The first thing you think of is 'oh my god, am I going to survive this' and almost the second thing you think of is 'I don't want to lose my hair,'" Hourihan said.
"I didn't want to look sick," said Kristin Ferguson, who is now cancer free after a long, painful journey. She longed to keep her hair during treatment. "I used to think it was vanity, and now I just think its self-preservation."
Approved by the FDA in 2015, the Mayo Clinic is using cold caps therapy, which involves using a special kind of cap set at very cold temperatures. Doctors place them on their patients' heads to protect their hair follicles.
The Mayo Clinic is the only facility on the First Coast using this technology.
"If you apply cold in certain part of the body, you can actually cause vessel constriction and that helps limit how much chemo therapy flow to certain parts of the body," Chumsri said.
When applied to the scalp, the cold cap limits chemotherapy flow and therefore, helps protect your hair follicles.
But, it’s not exactly like a trip to the spa.
"It’s like an ice-cream headache," Ferguson said.
Hourihan said it's worth it, though.
"I feel like I don’t look sick and I feel like that definitely affects my attitude towards my life and my attitude towards my diagnosis," Hourihan said. “I want to see my kids grow up, so there was never any doubt in my mind that I had to fight with all I had."
The treatment cost $400 a month, not covered by insurance.