BRITISH COLUMBIA

B.C. Woman Backs Chemotherapy Cold Cap Treatment

07/30/2013 08:31 EDT | Updated 09/29/2013 05:12 EDT
A Squamish, B.C., woman with breast cancer is calling on the BC Cancer Agency to back a cold cap designed to prevent hair loss due to chemotherapy.

Former pro snowboarder Megan Pischke is on her 15th chemotherapy treatment, but still has a full head of hair, which she attributes to using the cold cap.

"The cold cap essentially is freezing my scalp and my hair follicles, so the chemo drug doesn't go in there and induce alopecia," said Pischke.

Chemotherapy drugs act by killing cells that divide rapidly, one of the main properties of most cancer cells. However, this also harms other normal cells that divide rapidly, including cells in the hair follicles, leading to hair loss.

The cold caps must be changed every half hour and kept at a temperature of –32 C, so Pischke has had to invest in coolers filled with dry ice.

The treatment is not covered by B.C.'s Medical Services Program and renting the caps and buying storage has so far cost Pischke nearly $4,000.

Much of this has been funded by the snowboarding community, which has rallied around Pischke, who herself spent years helping cancer survivors get active.

A similar system, known as DigniCap, was approved for sale by Health Canada as a Class II medical device in 2008.

But a spokesperson for the BC Cancer Agency said the agency feels it needs more evidence about the benefits of the cold cap before making it available to patients.

Pischke hopes that policy will change, but said she simply wanted to keep a sense of normalcy, especially for her two young children.

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"I love it that I can go into my little café and get my green tea latte and not have the whole world go, 'Oh, poor thing."

"I guess sometimes sympathy can be a heavy thing, so I just appreciated not everyone knowing my story."

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