New Organization Helps Women With Cancer Save Their Hair, One Cooling Cap At a Time

HairToStay focuses on getting patients with cancer access to cooling caps so that they reduce their chance of losing their hair. 
Kristin Haynes remembers her first thought after her breast cancer diagnosis: The open-endedness of it all is so alarming.

“How is my life going to be impacted? How is my daughter’s life going to be impacted? Is this going to be something that takes my life the next go-around?” Haynes recalls wondering.

That was in August 2016. Now, nearly six months after her diagnosis, Haynes recently completed her chemotherapy treatment and will undergo surgery. Still, she feels she is in a strange place as she spends most of her days fatigued and trying to keep up with her 8-year-old.

One part of her life that didn’t feel so strange was her ability to keep her hair during her treatment with chemotherapy. Haynes was able to do so because of scalp cooling and the financial assistance that she received from HairToStay, a nonprofit organization that offers need-based grants to offset the expense of scalp cooling systems for chemotherapy patients being treated in the United States.

“This idea of having some control over something in this process, such as my hair, I think helped me feel like I had a little more control over my life in general,” she says in an interview with CURE. “That helped me stay hopeful and healthy. It helped me to not perceive myself as sick or unable to do things I had been doing my entire life.”

Shortly before her chemotherapy began, Haynes was doing research online on how to keep her hair and stumbled upon HairToStay. After going through its application process, she received partial reimbursement from the organization for the cooling caps that she was renting from Penguin Cold Caps.

Women from all over the country, like Haynes, are getting help from HairToStay, which officially launched in April 2016. It has approved nearly 300 applications and has raised about a half a million dollars to date.

Cooling caps have been established and used successfully in other countries, but are fairly new to the U.S., with only one current FDA-cleared device, the DigniCap scalp cooling system. The caps work by narrowing the blood vessels beneath the skin of the scalp, reducing the amount of chemotherapy medicine that reaches the hair follicles.

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