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Mayo Clinic using new tech to help prevent hair loss during chemotherapy

Posted at 10:42 AM, Nov 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-20 13:30:17-05

Groundbreaking technology bringing comfort and hope to patients battling breast cancer here in the Valley. 

"Not something you really expect a couple days after your 30th birthday," said Brittany Gilmore.

A breast cancer diagnosis caught Gilmore off guard back in April but when it came to treatment, she says her course of action was clear once she saw the DigniCap Scalp Cooling System.

"It makes your day longer but it's worth it," said Gilmore.

"You might think of this as a fancy refrigerator because what it does, simply, is generate a very cold fluid," said Dr. Donald Northfelt from Mayo Clinic.

It's helping breast cancer patients like Gilmore preserve their hair while undergoing chemotherapy. Mayo Clinic says it's the only facility in Arizona with this type of tech.

"The cold constricts the blood vessels in the scalp and that reduces the amount of chemotherapy that reaches the scalp and reaches the hair follicles," said Dr. Northfelt.

The need is there. Dr. Northfelt has watched patients forego what could be life-saving chemo because they're terrified of hair loss.

"It sounds really vain but it's just helped make everything so easy," said Gilmore.

FDA trials showed a 70 percent satisfaction rate and while Gilmore describes the first 20 minutes as a "bad brain freeze," she says her results will always be worth it.

"Just to have my hair and feel normal like before the diagnosis," said Gilmore. "It's just made it a whole lot easier."

The treatment can cost hundreds of dollars per month. Patients at Mayo Clinic in Arizona can use the DigniCap for free thanks to a generous donation from a breast cancer survivor.