ThedaCare offers patients DigniCap Technology

Although medical atten-tion is part of the journey for patients with breast cancer, chemotherapy-induced hair loss can be one of the most psychologically distressing side effects, hampering a patient’s positive self-image and attitude toward treatment.

“Hair is such a personal and identifying aspect for so many people,” said Lisa Kellnhauser, Coordinator of Cosmetology Services at ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center. “We understand it can be difficult to lose a physical piece of yourself during treatment.”

Kellnhauser explained a scalp-cooling technology known as DigniCap, offered at ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center since 2017, is giving hope to patients who want to keep their hair.  ThedaCare is the first system in Wisconsin and the only one in Northeast Wisconsin to offer this now FDA-approved technology for use with patients of solid tumor cancers. Last year, ThedaCare purchased its second DigniCap system to accommodate four patients at one time, meeting demand.

The technology behind the scalp-cooling system involves a tightly-fitting, helmet-like cap filled with a gel coolant chilled to -15 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit.

“The scalp is cooled enough to constrict the blood flow to the scalp to reduce the delivery of chemotherapy drugs to the area of hair follicles,” said Kellnhauser. “The result can be less hair loss. Patients wear the cap before, during and for a period of time after receiving chemotherapy.”

Research published in the March 2018 issue of the Journal of Oncology Practice shows DigniCap preventing hair loss in up to 70 percent of chemotherapy patients.

“For some patients, it can be enough not to have to wear a wig,” said Kellnhauser. “Those are the results we are seeing for the patients who have used the scalp-cooling technology.”

A conversation with the cancer care team about this treatment is advised prior to scalp-cooling treatments. The most common side effects reported have been headaches, nausea and dizziness. Women with a history of migraines should avoid it. For women who pursue it, it’s suggested they are gentle with their hair during treatments – no hair rollers, blow-drying or harsh brushing. Similar to other cosmetology services, scalp-cooling treatments are not covered by most insurance companies. DigniCap costs $325 per treatment with a maximum out-of-pocket cost of $2,925, or a total of nine treatments. For patients unable to afford treatments, there are potential grants available from the generous donors to the ThedaCare Family of Foundations.

“Anyone who wants to try the scalp-cooling therapy will likely have the opportunity to do so,” Kellnhauser emphasizes. “We truly want to make this an option for our patients.” Researchers continue to discover new breakthroughs in cancer hair-loss treatment. A recent study reports there is a new strategy that could further prevent chemotherapy-induced hair loss. Scientists also hope other approaches can promote hair follicle regeneration for patients who have already lost their hair due to chemotherapy.

Meantime, Kellnhauser wants patients with breast cancer to know they can turn to this technology to help improve their self-esteem, sense of well-being and reduce a visible sign of chemotherapy treatment. “DigniCap gives patients the opportunity to still look like themselves and feel good about themselves at such a difficult time in their lives,” said Kellnhauser. “Caregivers understand that promoting a positive attitude can go a long way in helping with treatment.”


To learn more about cancer care cosmetology services, call 920.364.3660.