Hair loss (alopecia) can be one
of the most devastating and emotional
experience, as it is the most visible side
effect of cancer treatment. When our hair falls out, it affects or self-image
and quality of life. It is important to know that
hair loss is not permanent, and your hair will grow back normally once the
treatment is complete.
Treatments and Hair
In addition to affecting the
cancerous cells, radiation and chemotherapy treatments can affect normal cells,
including the cells responsible for hair growth.
Hair loss occurs with many
chemotherapy drugs, but not all; and sometimes the loss is slight and not
noticeable. Hair loss from chemotherapy occurs because the hair follicles are
weakened by the treatment, which causes your hair to fall out much more quickly
than it would normally. Hair loss from chemotherapy can occur in all parts of
the body – head, face, legs, armpits, arms and pubic hair. Depending on the
type of treatment you receive, hair loss may start anywhere from seven to 21
days after treatment begins. Your hair will start to grow back when you are
finished with chemotherapy but it may take six to 12 months to grow back
completely. It may even have a different texture – for example, curly hair can
grow back straight and dark hair can become lighter.
Unlike chemotherapy, radiation
therapy causes hair loss only in the area being treated. For example, if you
are receiving radiation to your head, you will lose scalp hair only. As
mentioned above, hair loss is usually not permanent, however, radiation to the
head or scalp can cause permanent hair loss. The hair will sometimes come back
within two to three months if lower doses of radiation are used.
What You Can Do to Help
with Hair Loss?
- Use mild shampoos, like baby
shampoo, to avoid dryness of the scalp
- Cut hair short (it’s easier
to deal with short hair falling out than longer hair)
- Avoid heated rollers and
hairdryers, but if you must, use the low setting
- Use a wide-tooth comb and
- Do not colour or perm your
- Avoid plaiting your hair or
wearing it too tight
- Sleep on sating pillows
- Protect head from the sun –
wear a hat, scarf or wig.
Obtaining and Wearing a
- Buy a wig before all of your
hair falls out sot that you will have a good match to your own hair colour and
will be prepared when hair-loss starts
- Keep in mind that there are
full-service wig salons that fit and style wigs, some of which specialize in
hair loss from cancer treatments..
- Have fun with it. Wig
salons also sell turbans and scarves that come in a variety of colours and
fabrics that are stylish.
- Wear stickies to keep your
wig on. They are so effective that you’ll forget you are wearing a wig.