FDA expands use of treatment that prevents hair loss during chemo
SAN ANTONIO – Thousands of people fighting cancer will now have access to a treatment that prevents hair loss during chemotherapy.
Until now, the treatment was only available to women fighting breast cancer. The FDA has now cleared it for men and women fighting all kinds of solid tumors.
The only place it’s available in most of Texas is right here in San Antonio at the START Center for Cancer Care.
"I am getting my chemotherapy,” patient Monique Derrington says while connected to an IV drip.
She’s fighting cancer for the second time.
"I don't know how to put into words, how I could just not lose my hair,” Derrington says.
That’s why she’s wearing cooling caps during her eight-hour chemotherapy session.
"Right now it’s extremely cold,” Derrington says.
The treatment’s called DigniCap. Oncologists call it a game changer.
"For a lot of patients, losing their hair is the most devastating part of their journey,” Dr. Amy Lang says.
She explains how cooling liquid from the DigniCap machine flows into the caps and preserves hair follicles.
"So by these effects, the follicles are spared the toxic effects of the chemotherapy and the patients lose very little or much less hair,” Dr. Lang says.
The treatment is not covered by insurance, but here in town the ThriveWell Cancer Foundation is covering the costs for as many patients as possible.
Former patient Jennifer Perlmutter used the caps while fighting breast cancer.
"It was the one thing that I could control,” she says. "I wanted my kids not to think their mom is gravely ill."
She showed us family photos for comparison. They were taken before and after chemotherapy. She’s not wearing a wig or a scarf. It looks as though she simply got a haircut.
"Really, I only lost a little bit of hair on the top of the crown and on the sides,” Perlmutter says.
The results give patients like Derrington hope.
"For me, it's so much easier to go about my daily business and not feel self-conscious and feel normal - even though you're going through something very un-normal,” she says.
By EMILY BAUCUM