Michigan mom finds hope to prevent hair loss during breast cancer fight

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A local woman has found a silver lining to her tough breast cancer battle. At age 25 Melissa Mally was told that she carried the breast cancer gene. She was suddenly facing a high risk of breast and ovarian Cancer, she decided to focus on living instead.

“It can put young women under so much pressure to do things, especially if you’re not married, you don’t know if you want to have kids, there is so much pressure to do things so fast before you get cancer,” Mally said.

Doctors agree don’t focus on the cancer’s arrival, but keep track of its absence.

“We do recommend for those patient’s risk reduction, high risk screening, high risk surveillance, and not all of them will get breast cancer but obviously the vast majority do so we have to be very proactive for all those patients,” Henry Ford Breast Cancer Surgeon Jessica Bensenhaver explains.

For several years, Melissa escapes the cancer. She got married and even gave birth in 2017 to her son Jonah, but her joy was quickly met with pain. 

“I was going to look into doing a preventive double mastectomy but unfortunately then I then had an MRI and they found a very early breast cancer,” Mally said.

Now the new mom was in a cancer battle.

“I was terrified, I couldn't believe it, I had been trying to do these preventative screenings for so long that I never would have thought this would happen,” she said. 

Doctors determined Melissa’s cancer was fast growing so treatment was aggressive. 

“I had a lumpectomy, I froze some embryo’s, I went through six rounds of chemo, then I had a double 
Mastectomy last month so, it’s been a busy year,” she said. 

Amid all of that, one of the shining moments is Melissa’s discovery of the cold cap, a device that theoretically constricts blood vessels in the scalp and shuts out the chemo.

“It's a frozen cap you wear that’s almost negative 40 degrees. You wear it on your head the day of chemo therapy and you actually wear it 4 hours once chemo is over for that day. It freezes the scalp so it tries to prevent the chemo from actually reaching the hair follicles,” she said.

Research shows that it hasn’t worked for every woman and there are a lot of variables like the type of chemo drugs, and the type of hair you have, but with Melissa it prevented her hair from falling out. 

"I did shed quite a bit, but nothing that anyone would notice so I was able to share my diagnosis with only the people I wanted to,” she said. 

Melissa is now ready to share her story with everyone. Her son Jonah is 1 ½ years old, she’s feeling strong, her husband Shane is relieved and lessons have been learned. 

“Knowledge is power, the more you know the more you can do to protect yourself,” she said.  

The cold cap isn’t always covered by insurance so consider the cost and the length of your chemo treatment.

Melissa will be checked for cancer for the rest of her life, so remember if you have two first degree relatives like a mom and a sister with cancer, doctors will test for a genetic link.