Lebré Neethling details the excellent results she got by using cold caps during chemotherapy to prevent hair loss.
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Lebré Neethling (27) lives in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal with her husband, Ryno Neethling.
In October 2021, I was diagnosed with an intraductal papilloma (benign condition where a wart-like lump develops in milk ducts). I had surgery, however, it was found to actually be ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) (presence of abnormal cells inside a milk duct and considered the earliest form of breast cancer). I then had 21 rounds of radiation. A breast MRI in April 2022 came back clear.
But in November 2022, I suddenly had bloody nipple discharge and went for an MRI. A small calcification in the same breast was found and a biopsy confirmed Stage 1 intraductal carcinoma (cancer spread outside milk ducts to breast tissue, but hasn’t spread to lymph nodes).
In January 2023, I had a second lumpectomy and then had a high Oncotype DX test score which meant I needed chemotherapy. I was devastated; my doctor gave me the time I needed to make my decision and after a lot of crying and praying I decided to go ahead.
Loss of hair a major concern
Losing my hair was a big concern as I already had so much taken away from me and I had no control over it. I just wanted to go through treatment and look and feel as normal as possible. Keeping my hair was the one thing I had control over.
I did a lot of research on chemotherapy-induced hair loss and how to prevent it. I then came across the UK-based company that offers cold caps and the reviews were amazing. My doctor was happy for me to use the cold caps as this service wasn’t offered by him.
So, I rented the cold caps on a monthly basis as the company doesn’t sell them. The caps come in a set of three and dry ice is needed to cool the caps on chemo days. The cost is 449USD per month which comes down to about R10 000. The dry ice cost is R1 000 for every session.
It’s manual caps so you’re not connected to a machine, which makes it convenient as you can stand up, go to the bathroom and continue cold capping after treatment in the comfort of your own home.
The caps are cooled in dry ice about an hour before treatment. The first cap goes on 50 minutes before treatment starts and is changed after 20 minutes. The second cap goes on; after 20 minutes the third cap. Fifteen minutes into the third cap, chemo commences, and the caps are changed every 25 minutes thereafter. After treatment I continued cold capping for about five hours. You can only wash your hair weekly and can’t use any heat (straightener or blow dryer).
A full head of hair
The results were excellent; I still have 90% of my hair. The cold caps have been sent back to the UK by an extremely happy customer. I can’t wait to have a full head of foils, cut and blow dry for the first time in six months.
Cold capping isn’t widely available in South Africa and people don’t know that they have this option to try and prevent chemo-induced hair loss.
MEET OUR EDITOR – Laurelle Williams
Laurelle Williams is the editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words.