Cooling Caps Give Hope to Chicago-Area Women Battling Cancer

As breast cancer awareness month comes to an end, there’s new hope for women in the Chicago-area battling the disease, especially those who suffer from hair loss due to chemotherapy.

Putting on a cooling cap is a process that Lisa Moses from Lake Zurich now knows well. Lisa wore for each of the six chemotherapy treatments she underwent within the past year to beat breast cancer. “It’s a little bit uncomfortable, it’s cold, but after time, you become immune to it and it’s fine,” Moses said.

In her case, the cap went on 30 minutes before the chemo started and stayed on for 90 minutes after the four-hour infusion, making it an all-day affair.

"It’s very time consuming, but it was so worth it,” Moses said.

Cooling cap devices received FDA approval two years ago.

“If you are using a cold cap you are going to have some hair preservation,” said Dr. Valerie Nelson, medical director of research at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital. “It’s just variable how much stays.”

Dr. Nelson says treatment is considered successful when patients keep 50% of their hair or more. That’s happened for nearly 70% of patients who’ve used the caps at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital.

“Being able to preserve their hair gives them power back, and the opportunity to control the message – tell who you want to tell and look in the mirror and still feel like themselves,” Dr. Nelson said.

Lisa Moses said keeping half her hair helped her get through her cancer ordeal a lot easier and it also made it easier for her husband and two high school aged kids as well.

“They just saw me looking like mom and that was huge,” Moses said.

The cooling cap treatment isn’t covered by insurance, that’s why the Lake Forest Women’s Hospital Board picked up the tab for more than 150 women, including Moses’, who is now cancer free.

“I think that if I didn’t have the choice to do what I did, I think my journey would have been a lot different emotionally,” she said.

The pilot program as Lake Forest Hospital has been so successful and Northwestern Medicine is working to expand the program to other sites.

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