Hair Conservation During Cancer Treatment

Posted on: April 25, 2019

By Tiffany Svahn, MD

One of the most common questions my patient asks during our discussion of breast cancer treatment is, “Will I lose my hair?” For many women who will go through chemotherapy, losing their hair is an unwelcome reminder of their diagnosis and negatively affects their self-image and sense of well-being.

Recently, the FDA approved a revolutionary system to prevent chemotherapy-induced alopecia for patients with solid tumor cancers. The DigniCap Scalp Cooling System provides automated cooling to the patient’s scalp during chemotherapy treatments.  Cooling the cells on the scalp reduces blood flow and cell metabolism to this area, which helps to protect the hair follicles from chemotherapy. Scalp cooling only works for certain chemotherapy drugs (taxanes), but of these regimens, an FDA study showed that 66% of patients kept at least 50% of their hair.

Diablo Valley Oncology is one of the first cancer centers in the East Bay area to become certified to offer DigniCap to cancer patients.  We have also incorporated this new technology into the comprehensive services we offer at our Women’s Cancer Center of the East Bay’s Multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Clinic.  One of the main goals of our program is to reduce the anxiety experienced by patients who have been diagnosed with cancer. Because DigniCap addresses the stress of hair loss, it is a natural addition to our practice.   

Patterned after academic centers, our Multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Clinic evaluates patients with diagnosed breast cancer in a comprehensive, single-day setting to minimize the time between diagnosis and treatment.  In the initial appointment, women meet with a breast surgeon, medical oncologist and a radiation oncologist.  After a tumor board discussion, each physician consults with the patient and presents the most appropriate course of treatment based on the consensus opinions from this breast cancer physician team. This team approach spares patients and their family the anxiety and uncertainty of waiting days or weeks between individual appointments. 

Reducing patient’s anxiety and stress allows them to focus their energy on what’s most important:  getting well and putting cancer behind them.

Dr. Svahn is a Medical Oncologist and Breast Cancer Specialist with Diablo Valley Oncology and Hematology Medical Group in Pleasant Hill.  She is the Medical Director of the Women’s Cancer Center of the East Bay.  Contact information:  925-677-5041or