Cooling cap keeps cancer patients from losing their hair during chemotherapy

Cooling cap keeps cancer patients from losing their hair during chemotherapy
(Source: WAFB)

GONZALES, La. (WAFB) - There’s a new cap in town, but it’s not the kind you wear on a night out; it’s actually helping people through tough times.

Wendy Fruge’s routine is simple. She leads an ordinary life with her family in Gonzales. Like many, she doesn’t look like what she’s been through

“I went in for my routine mammogram that I’ve done every year since I was 40,” said Fruge.

But that routine procedure turned into a second trip to see her physician, Dr. Mindy Bowie, at Woman’s Hospital. Fruge is living with breast cancer.

“She did not have a palpable mass in her breast, which is the importance of having your yearly mammograms,” Dr. Bowie said.

“I was not systematic. I didn’t feel a lump. It literally was picked up from the mammogram,” Fruge said.

Wendy Fruge
Wendy Fruge (Source: WAFB)

Fruge and Dr. Bowie immediately started talking about treatment options: a lumpectomy, chemo, then radiation.

“The main thing is... oh my gosh... chemotherapy,” Fruge said.

Hair loss is closely identified with chemotherapy.

“That can be very traumatizing for the patient. I have had patients that refused chemotherapy simply because they were going to lose their hair,” said Dr. Bowie.

In fact, that was Fruge’s son’s first thought, asking his mother if she was going to lose her hair.

“But this time, I was like, I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m going to lose my hair,” she said.

She didn’t know because now, patients have options.

“The cooling cap is a device that’s placed on the scalp and reduces the temperature, thereby reducing blood flow to the scalp," said Dr. Lauren Zatarain, a medical oncologist.

“I really didn’t have anything to lose at that point, but I had a lot to gain. Like, what if it works?” Fruge said.

Fruge faced six rounds of chemo and each time, she wore the cap. Doctors say when chemotherapy isn’t going to the scalp, the hair follicles aren’t damaged as much, increasing the chances of a patient keeping their hair.

“By the fourth, I was like wow, I think this is working,” Fruge said.

Despite the visits to the doctor, Fruge says she felt normal. She had cancer, went through chemotherapy, and still has her hair. She credits the cap.

“I like to be able to have that kind of confidence to be able to continue on and then share my story if I want to share it, versus someone going, oh... poor her,” she said.

Fruge doesn’t want the sympathy. She battled cancer the only way she knew how.

“We’re all forever changed when we get the diagnosis, but this was possibly going to give me the opportunity to look in the mirror every day and see that familiar face,” she said.

With just a few more infusion treatments ahead, Fruge’s routine is pretty much back to normal.

“I feel like our bodies are gonna’ heal with or without us for the most part, but it’s the emotional part. This kinda’ enables you to keep more of a positive perspective,” said Fruge.

Patients have to be using a particular treatment to use the cool cap. The best way to find out if you’re eligible is by talking with your doctor.

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