Women cancer patients may choose to wear hats and caps, also referred to as "chemo caps," to protect their scalps from the elements and to also boost their morale and self-image. According to the American Cancer Society, hair changes ranging from thinning to complete baldness are common side effects of chemotherapy.
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Hats and caps for women with cancer include a variety of styles appropriate for different seasons. Volunteers make caps using different techniques, which include knitting, crocheting and sewing. Types of materials used for knitting and crocheting chemo caps include soft yarns like cotton or micro-fleece; the yarn is usually of baby, sport or finger weight; worsted weight is less common due to the thickness. Sewn chemo caps often consist of soft knit or fleece fabric. Using wool to make the caps is discouraged because of its rough texture.
Common styles of chemo caps include skull caps, toques, beanies and turbans; stylish additions like flowers or ribbons can be added. Chemo caps for the summer or warm weather regions are made of thinner, more breathable materials such as cotton, to allow for perspiration and air flow. Seamless chemo caps also allow for increased comfort for the patient, especially while sleeping. Knit or crochet stitch patterns that do not leave open spaces for the bald scalp to peak through are preferred.
Depending on the design and the ability of the hat maker, a chemo cap may take less than an hour to make or it can take several days. According to the National Cancer Institute, baldness resulting from chemotherapy can last for up to three months after the last treatment; patients may want to wear caps for several months or longer until their hair reaches a desirable length.
Although chemo caps should be laundered before they are given to a patient, avoid using scented detergents or fabric softener, because these products can be irritating to fragile skin. Because women with cancer often have increased sensitivity to their skin and scalps, avoid using wool yarns or fabric because it may cause an allergic reaction to the hat wearer. According to Charityguide.org, chemo caps should cover the entire back of the head so as to protect all bald areas from the cold, sunburn and wind.
According to Bev's Country Cottage, a handmade chemo cap can make a cancer patient feel hopeful and supported, and bring a sense of peace to the woman's life. For patients spending several weeks or longer in the hospital, having a variety of brightly coloured or patterned caps can allow for their sense of style and individuality to shine through. For the maker of the chemo caps, an increased sense of purpose through charitable giving can boost self-esteem and spiritual health.
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