Cold caps help cancer patients keep hair during chemo

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Penguin Cold Caps can help cancer patients keep their hair during chemo. (Source: Penguin Cold Caps) Penguin Cold Caps can help cancer patients keep their hair during chemo. (Source: Penguin Cold Caps)
"I felt strong," Weinstein said about keeping her hair. "I felt confident. I felt more normal. It helped me not feel sorry for myself and not have anyone feel sorry for me." (Source: Audra Weinstein) "I felt strong," Weinstein said about keeping her hair. "I felt confident. I felt more normal. It helped me not feel sorry for myself and not have anyone feel sorry for me." (Source: Audra Weinstein)
"Women need to know you have an option where you don't lose your hair; you really don't have to lose it," Weinstein said. (Source: Audra Weinstein) "Women need to know you have an option where you don't lose your hair; you really don't have to lose it," Weinstein said. (Source: Audra Weinstein)
Weinstein's friends were there to help her change caps every 30 minutes during her treatments. (Source: Audra Weinstein) Weinstein's friends were there to help her change caps every 30 minutes during her treatments. (Source: Audra Weinstein)
Cold caps work by reducing blood flow in the capillary that goes to the hair follicle. That means the follicles do not absorb the drugs. (Source: Audra Weinstein) Cold caps work by reducing blood flow in the capillary that goes to the hair follicle. That means the follicles do not absorb the drugs. (Source: Audra Weinstein)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

When Audra Weinstein heard the dreaded words nobody ever wants to hear -- you have breast cancer -- the mother of two immediately began to think about what matters most.

"This is my world; these are my loves -- my family, my children," she said as she showed us her picture wall.

As she sat in the doctor's office and continued to get information, she questioned the diagnosis

"I can't even imagine that's my diagnosis because I'm a healthy person," she said. "I'm active, I'm fit, and I have a great attitude. I was shocked."

However once the shock wore off, she turned her attention to trying to retain her hair. Weinstein questioned her oncologist, asking if there were medications or a special chemo cocktail that might save her hair. To her surprise, there was.

Dr. Giraldo Kato with Pinnacle Oncology recommended Penguin Cold Caps.

"It's been around for years," Kato said. "In the clinical trials shown last year showed that in two-thirds of the patients that undergo the cold caps, it prevents less than 50 percent of hair loss."

Trusting his suggestion, Weinstein was in, but not for her vanity; she wanted to keep her kids as calm as possible.

"I really wanted to keep my situation normal for them," she said. "I think it has helped a lot because they haven't asked questioned about what I'm going through."

Weinstein and her friends hit the Internet to learn as much about Penguin Cold Caps as possible.

The first thing they learned is that the caps are expensive, requiring a $500 deposit and $500 per month. They need 82,000 pounds of dry ice to store them, and they can be difficult to handle. Weinstein's friends stepped up big time, helping her switch out the caps every 30 minutes during her six chemo treatments.

"The ice had to be picked up the morning of my chemo therapy treatments, which started at 6 a.m.," Weinstein said. "They had to get the ice, pack the caps and the caps had to be in the dry ice three hours prior to the first cap going on my head."

How do the Penguin Cold Caps make it possible for chemo patients to keep their hair?

"The way it works is it reduces blood flow in the capillary that goes to the hair follicle, so the chemotherapy does not go into the hair follicles," Kato explained. "That prevents you from losing any hair."

After two rounds of chemo, Weinstein realized the caps were working.

"I was thinking, 'I'm going to keep my hair,'" she recalled. "It was super exciting."

Weinstein is now in remission. She kept her hair through the entire treatment process.

"I felt strong," she said. "I felt confident. I felt more normal. It helped me not feel sorry for myself and not have anyone feel sorry for me."

Now Weinstein wants her mess to be her message to other women conquering cancer.

"Women need to know you have an option where you don't lose your hair; you really don't have to lose it," she said. "Helping somebody else who is going through this is huge." 

It's important to note that Penguin Cold Caps are not FDA approved. But they are not the only option. In December, the FDA approved marketing of the DigniCap for breast cancer patients.

Although cold caps are expensive, an organization called The Rapunzel Project can help with costs. Weinstein is now working on starting her own organization to help with the cold caps.

If you are a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy and are interested in using cold caps to keep your hair, you can email Audra Weinstein at AudraWeinstein@Me.com.     

Copyright 2016 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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