Cold caps help breast cancer patients avoid trauma of hair loss

Jill Lefferman, with her family, used cold caps during her breast cancer treatment.

Story highlights

  • Cold caps can help women with breast cancer keep their hair during chemotherapy
  • New research also shows success with automated scalp cooling devices that are less labor-intensive
  • Experts warn that their success is dependent on the individual patient and the chemo type

(CNN)When Jill Lefferman received a breast cancer diagnosis six years ago at age 39, her biggest concern was maintaining a normal life with her husband for the sake of their three young children. Part of that included an effort to retain her hair, even though the chemotherapy drugs required to battle her cancer would most certainly cause hair loss, according to her doctor.

"I lost my mother-in-law to cancer and was very aware of how our last memories of her were her not looking like herself and not the way she'd want to be remembered," Lefferman said. "It was terrifying to me that my kids would possibly have this frightening image of me be the last one if I didn't survive, and I was just determined that they wouldn't have that experience. I did everything I could in every way to normalize life for them and make it as untraumatic as possible."
At the time, Lefferman's doctor had just returned from an annual breast cancer meeting where there was a presentation on cold caps. She told Lefferman that it might be an option to help her maintain her natural hair, although she didn't know anyone who had tried it. Lefferman had looked into wigs and even purchased one, but she wanted to keep her own hair if possible.