The torture of scalp cooling

That’s Chemo Cycle 2 over, and was I happy to see the back of that one.

Getting the chemo was fine, but OMG the scalp cooling. That was torture and it took all my strength to go the distance.

I have just read over my post after the first session where I said that the cool cap was “bearable”. I can’t believe I wrote that. It really was mind over matter to get through the first 20 minutes this time; the oncologist had said if you can get through the first 20 minutes, you’ll manage the whole thing, as that’s the time it takes to get to the required temperature. I buried my head in a book and tried very, very hard not to clock watch. I had a fleece and a blanket over me and I was still cold.

So you wear this really tight silicone cap on your head that covers your whole skull. That’s covered with a neoprene cap that insulates the inner one, and that’s kept on with a scalp coolingreally tight chin strap that pushes your cheeks up and makes you look like a hamster. The cap is connected to a cooling unit that circulates coolant through the cap “extracting heat from the patient’s scalp”. Your scalp needs to be cooled from its normal temperature of 36 degrees C to below 24 degrees C. Sounds lovely, huh? I swear I felt ice when I touched the back of my neck.

Even though the wig’s been bought – and I love it – I can’t bring myself to say no to the cap. Hair loss usually starts after the first or second cycle, so I guess I’ll know soon enough whether the cap’s having the desired effect. Part of me would be relieved if it didn’t work as it would mean I wouldn’t have to bear another session. Also, the good old Macmillan website says “Some people find that losing their hair over a prolonged period while using scalp cooling is harder to cope with than the quicker, more predictable hair loss that tends to occur without scalp cooling”. Tough as it is, I think I’ll take my chances.

If you’re doing scalp cooling during chemo, you have to rest the arm in which you’re having the injections on a heated pad to keep the vein dilated. So once chemo was over and I had another hour-and-a-half to go with the cap, I used the pad as a hot water bottle. That helped a little but it was still miserable. I was so happy to leave.

I’m clearly still traumatised almost 24 hours later. Other than that, I’m fine!


12 thoughts on “The torture of scalp cooling

  1. So what for next time? electric blanket? thermals? cashmere blanket? Hats off Maureen for sticking with it! (Excuse the pun) Your blog is inspiring. I had no idea of the details of the treatment. A real eye opener! Much love X


  2. I was actually relieved when my hair fell out that I did not have to attempt the cool cap for a second time. Well done you – not sure I could have done more than one ‘sitting’. Keep going you are doing brilliant xx


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