FDA approval could mean less hair loss for chemotherapy patients

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – A cancer diagnosis is terrifying enough, but then comes treatment side effects that can rock your world.

One of the most dramatic changes linked to chemotherapy is hair loss.

New technology was approved in the U.S. hoping to save patients’ locks.

9 On Your Side’s Katie Harden was able to sit down Thursday with a brave woman fighting cancer in Greenville.

She shares her story and explains how cutting her hair was one of the defining moments of her journey so far.

“Several people have asked, ‘I just don’t know how you’re doing it.’ Two small children. And the Lord dealt these cards to us and you just have to play what you’re given,” said Christy Sutton.

In June, Sutton was dealt a tough hand.

“It was very direct and to the point. She said, ‘Well, it’s cancer.’ And I don’t remember a whole lot after that,” said Sutton.

It was stage 3-C breast cancer.

She knew right away she would fight the disease, which would include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Like most women receiving chemo, Christy knew her hair was on the line. She decided early on to cut her hair and made it a family affair. But when the chair spun around after the final snip?

“I don’t know,” she said. “It’s one of those moments that you want to forget.”

After some tears and a trip to a wig store, Christy decided to just keep going.

“You don’t expect that,” said Sutton. “But you accept it.”

Some new technology is allowing women fighting breast cancer to keep their hair. The FDA approved the DIGNI-Caps on Tuesday, which chill the scalp while patients receive their treatment.

This approach is not new, but the results are encouraging.

The new machines will likely take some time to roll out, but other personalized caps are available now.

Penguin Cooling Caps may be rented and used during treatment.

A non-profit called The Rapunzel Project provides biomedical freezers to clinics working to keep the caps cold, free of charge.

Currently, there are no freezers in North Carolina, but The Rapunzel Project says if patients are interested, they should contact their clinic.

As for Christy Sutton, she plans to fight and win her battle with cancer, with or without her hair.

“If you sit around and worry and have a pity party, yeah, it’s going to be a negative experience,” said Sutton. “But if you take it for what it is and realize it’s not a death sentence and it doesn’t have to be a death sentence and you move forward, with every day that you do have, it makes it so much easier to take, and to live and to move on,” said Sutton.

Sutton says her goal is to encourage others in their fight against cancer and to help inform people of their options.

For more on The Rapunzel Project, click here.

To learn more about the DigniCaps, click here.

And for more information on the Penguin Cold Caps, click here.

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