Hair loss due to chemotherapy: What you should know and what you can do to manage it

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What you should know about cancer and hair loss

If you are experiencing hair loss due to chemotherapy, it can be devastating to see your hair get thinner. Hair loss is often a side effect of chemotherapy and can affect men and women. Chemotherapy drugs can cause hair loss but the drugs you are taking and how often you are taking them will affect how much hair you will lose. Your doctor should be able to inform you if you will experience hair loss or other side effects from chemotherapy.

Why does chemotherapy cause hair loss?

Chemotherapy attacks the cancer cells in the body but at the same time it destroys the healthy cells including your hair cells.

Not everyone receiving chemotherapy will experience the same type of hair loss. Some people might lose their hair more gradually and others might lose their hair more rapidly. Hair loss due to chemotherapy can affect not only the hair on your head but also your eyebrows and body hair as well. Women who are receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer may lose hair around their nipple.

Hair loss usually occurs within a few weeks after you start chemotherapy. You will lose your hair throughout the duration of your treatment. How much hair you lose will depend on the drugs you are taking. Hair loss is more likely to occur if you are taking drugs in high doses. You may continue to lose hair a few weeks after you stop treatment.

Chemotherapy and hair regrowth.

Hair loss from chemotherapy is usually not permanent. Hair cells should start to recover a few weeks after treatment. When your hair regrows you may notice that it may be a different color or it might be curlier than it used to be. Those changes are usually temporary. It may take from 3 to 10 months for the hair to grow back after you have stopped treatment.

Cancer and hair loss prevention
In general, there is no way to prevent or control hair loss that results from chemo. However you can do your best to manage it. You can choose to get a haircut to give your hair a fuller appearance. You can also consider wearing wigs and head scarves. Some people may experience their hair falling out in patches and decide to shave it bald.

During and after treatment it is important to treat your hair very gently. During treatment your scalp might feel sore. You can sleep with a satin scarf or buy a satin pillowcase which is healthier for the hair. Use gentle shampoos, preferably ones that do not have sulfates.

Look Good Feel Good is a free program that offers tips and makeovers to women dealing with cancer. Their programs are offered throughout America and in some countries.

It can take time for the damaged hair cells to be repaired and for the hair to regrow. The most important thing is to be patient.

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