Chemo patient fights hair loss in new way

Fighting back against a side effect of chemo

GATE CITY, VA - A Gate City breast cancer patient is fighting back against one of the side effects of chemotherapy in a brand new way.

This new technology has gained government approval in Europe but not yet in the U.S. and it may help chemotherapy patients keep their hair.

However, without FDA approval, it's not covered by insurance. The treatment is about $3000, but the mother of two News 5 WCYB's Emily Carrier spoke with says -- it's worth it.

This mom and daughter both have long and flowing hair: something Summer Gibson, 34, wasn't willing to give up. "I could control this part. I could keep my hair. It's something that the cancer couldn't take away from me."

Summer discovered a lump in her breast right before Christmas. She and her husband Rudy decided on a bilateral mastectomy. But after the surgery, the tough news kept coming. "There was two positive lymph nodes, and with that we knew that there was some treatment coming," Summer said.

Chemotherapy. Summer is the mother of two and she works full-time as a sales representative. "The thought of losing my hair and having to shave my head... I had a really hard time with that."

Dr. Ibrahim Nakhoul at the Wellmont Cancer Institute tells News 5, "Some patients do deny chemotherapy because they're afraid of losing their hair because of this whole body image with changing and look in the mirror and not seeing themselves how they used to look."

Summer's surgeon told her about an experimental technology called "Cold Caps," a cap that could help keep chemo patients from losing their hair during treatment. "This cap is very cold the temperatures are about -15 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit and this actually the main way this works is it actually decreases the blood supply to the scalp area," says Nakhoul.

He explained that the blood vessels constrict and the chemotherapy that's going through the patient's veins doesn't reach their scalp.

On the days Summer didn't feel like getting out of bed... She says having her hair gave her a little extra motivation. "I meet people every day that have no idea that i'm a cancer patient."

Summer is receiving her last chemotherapy treatment tomorrow. 

The "Chemo Cold Caps" company says their product is pending FDA approval.

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