INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 20, 2015)-- Dr. Robin Fox is battling breast cancer for a second time in her life. But this time, cancer will not rob her of the one feminine thing in her life: her hair. She’s trying cold cap therapy to preserve it.
“Knowing that I could keep my hair through this process, allowed me to go into it with a much better attitude,” said Fox.
Cold Cap therapy was invented by Dr. Frank Fronda, of Great Britain. His Penguin Cold Caps can now be found around the world, including France, Switzerland, Mexico, South Africa and of course the U.S.
The plastic gel caps are kept at 22 degrees below freezing, either by dry ice or a special freezer. When used, they are strapped to a patients head, before, during and after a chemotherapy treatment.
For the most part, it’s up to the patient and a team of family and friends to make it happen. Robin’s husband, Lon, brought the caps into her treatment room in rolling coolers. He checked the temperature to make sure they were cold enough to be used. Lon and a family friend applied the caps to Robin’s head and timed the duration. No doctors or nurses were involved.
Other women have done this and more will in the future. It’s a simple non-invasive treatment: freeze the hair bulb so cancer killing chemo can’t severely damage the root of the hair follicles. The result, 90 percent of the time, the hair doesn’t fall out in any measurable way.
Cold Cap therapy has corporate support. Kenra Professional, headquartered in Indianapolis has partnered with the Rapunzel Project, the non-profit which supports Cold Cap therapy. In fact, Kenra has donated thousands of dollars to the cause and encouraged stylists who use Kenra Products, to support Cold Cap therapy. The goal is to provide freezers to hospitals which provide the caps to patients.
Here’s the rub, many hospitals don’t offer Cold Cap therapy.
“There’s just not a lot of information out there about it in the US yet. It’s been used in Europe for 20 years, but there’s not the FDA approval yet,” said Dr. Fox.
But the owner of the Medusa Salon in Anderson sees the need. She’s sponsored fund raisers for freezers and even has a donated one in her shop. But she can’t find any hospital or clinic that wants it.
“When you have a client who is going through chemotherapy, it’s devastating, to you as a professional as well, to shave that head. Sometimes, we end up crying as well,” said Stacie Leons-Parnell.
It costs approximately $580 a month to rent the gel caps, with a $500 deposit.
Without that FDA approval, there’s little incentive for insurance companies to cover the costs or for hospitals to offer it to chemotherapy patients.