If Youre Getting Radiation Therapy To The Head Or Neck
People who get radiation to the head and neck might have side effects such as:
- Soreness in the mouth or throat
- Dry mouth
- Jaw stiffness
How to care for your mouth during treatment
If you get radiation therapy to the head or neck, you need to take good care of your teeth, gums, mouth, and throat. Here are some tips that may help you manage mouth problems:
- Avoid spicy and rough foods, such as raw vegetables, dry crackers, and nuts.
- Dont eat or drink very hot or very cold foods or beverages.
- Dont smoke, chew tobacco, or drink alcohol these can make mouth sores worse.
- Stay away from sugary snacks.
- Ask your cancer care team to recommend a good mouthwash. The alcohol in some mouthwashes can dry and irritate mouth tissues.
- Rinse your mouth with warm salt and soda water every 1 to 2 hours as needed.
- Sip cool drinks often throughout the day.
- Eat sugar-free candy or chew gum to help keep your mouth moist.
- Moisten food with gravies and sauces to make it easier to eat.
- Ask your cancer care team about medicines to help treat mouth sores and control pain while eating.
If these measures are not enough, ask your cancer care team for advice. Mouth dryness may be a problem even after treatment is over. If so, talk to your team about what you can do.
How to care for your teeth during treatment
Radiation treatment to your head and neck can increase your chances of getting cavities. This is especially true if you have dry mouth as a result of treatment.
Is It Possible To Prevent Hair Loss
Scientists have tested different drugs to see if they could prevent hair loss in people who are treated for cancer. So far, there are no treatments approved for use in the UK to prevent hair loss.
You might have heard of something called cold capping or scalp cooling, where you wear a hat filled with a cold gel or liquid while you have your chemotherapy. Cold capping reduces the flow of blood carrying chemotherapy to your hair. Although it can reduce hair loss, it is not recommended for people with lymphoma or other cancers affecting blood cells. This is because you could have lymphoma cells in the blood vessels of your scalp. If you wear a cold cap, the cells are more likely to survive chemotherapy, making the treatment less effective.
Caring For Your Hair And Head
Here are some ways you can care for your hair and head while youre experiencing hair loss:
- Wash and condition your hair every 2 to 4 days. Use baby shampoo or other mild shampoo . You should also use a cream rinse or hair conditioner.
- Use shampoos and conditioners that have sunscreen to prevent sun damage to your scalp.
- Always rinse your hair well and pat it dry with a soft towel.
- Wash your hair after swimming in a pool.
- Dont expose your scalp to the sun.
- Keep your head covered in the summer.
- In the winter, cover your head with a hat, scarf, turban, or wig to keep it warm. This can also help to catch falling hair.
- Sleep on a satin or silk pillowcase. These are smoother than other fabrics and can decrease hair tangles.
- Brush or comb your hair gently with a soft-bristle brush or comb. Start brushing or combing your hair at the ends and gently work your way up to your scalp. You can also comb through your hair with your fingers. Wet your fingers with water first.
- If your hair is long, you may want to have it cut short before you begin treatment.
- Tell your hairdresser that youre receiving chemotherapy. They may be able to recommend gentle hair products.
- Try using Bumble and bumble Hair Powder to cover bald spots and thinning areas of your hair. You can buy it at Sephora® or online from various beauty supply websites.
Dont use the following on your hair during treatment because they can be too harsh or pull on your hair:
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To Lessen Scalp Irritation:
- Use a soft hair brush to lessen scalp irritation and tugging on the hair shaft.
- Permanent wave solution-for perms-may irritate the scalp and speed up hair falling out.
- Use low heat when using a hair dryer to lessen dryness and irritation of the scalp.
- Use a satin, polyester or cotton pillow case, rather than a nylon pillow case, which can cause irritation.
- Wear sunscreen or make sure to cover the scalp with a hat at all times outside. Cloudy days can expose that tender skin to possible sunburns just as much as a sunny day.
When Will My Hair Grow Back
Once you finish your treatments, your hair should begin to grow back. Hair regrowth can take 3 to 5 months. When your hair grows back, it may have a different texture or color. In rare cases, your hair wont grow back as fully as it did before.
There is a very small risk that your hair wont grow back after radiation therapy to your head.
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Problems Eating And Drinking
- reduced sense of taste
- bad breath
Tell your care team if you have any of these problems. They may recommend painkillers or a special mouthwash that can help. Avoiding spicy, salty or sharp foods can also help.
Mucositis usually gets better a few weeks after treatment finishes, although sometimes a dry mouth can be a long-term problem.
Hair Loss From Chemo And Radiation
Chemotherapy drugs that kill cancer cells can also damage hair follicles, which causes your hair to fall out. Some of these medications may thin the hair on your scalp or make it all fall out. Others can cause hair loss on body parts like:
- The genitals
- Around the eyes
Radiation can cause you to lose hair on the part of your body that gets treatment. Your prostate gland is just below your bladder and above the base of your penis, so radiation there might lead to hair loss in your pubic area.
Not everyone who has chemo or radiation loses hair. Before you start, ask your doctor how likely it is that youâll have this side effect and whether it might happen slowly or quickly.
Hair loss usually starts 1 to 3 weeks after you begin treatment. You may notice it more within 1 to 2 months.
How much hair you lose depends on things like:
- The type of chemo or radiation you have
- The dose
- In the case of chemo, how you get it
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Ways To Care For Your Hair When It Grows Back
- Be gentle. When your hair starts to grow back, you will want to be gentle with it. Avoid too much brushing, curling, and blow-drying. You may not want to wash your hair as frequently.
- After chemotherapy. Hair often grows back in 2 to 3 months after treatment has ended. Your hair will be very fine when it starts to grow back. Sometimes your new hair can be curlier or straighteror even a different color. In time, it may go back to how it was before treatment.
- After radiation therapy. Hair often grows back in 3 to 6 months after treatment has ended. If you received a very high dose of radiation your hair may grow back thinner or not at all on the part of your body that received radiation.
Hormonal And Targeted Therapies
Some people notice that their hair becomes thinner while taking a hormonal therapy or targeted therapy. This is usually mild and the hair grows back at the end of treatment. If you have a beard, you may notice that you have less beard growth.
You may notice that the hair on your head and body is finer, curlier or more brittle. Each therapy has different possible side effects.
Any hair loss from hormonal or targeted therapies nearly always grows back once you have finished treatment. Your doctor can advise you about the type of drug you are taking.
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Targeted Drugs And Hair Loss
Hair loss is uncommon in people who are treated with targeted drugs it affects fewer than 15 in 100 people.
Some targeted drugs are a type of immunotherapy treatment, for example antibody therapy. They use your immune system to treat your lymphoma. Fewer than 2 in 100 people treated with immunotherapy are affected by hair loss.
Some targeted drugs work on a protein called epidermal growth factor receptor , which fuels the growth of cancer cells. EGFR is also needed for the normal growth of hair and nails, which is why these drugs can cause changes to your hair and nails.
Targeted drugs might cause:
- the hair on your head to become more thin, dry or curly
- your hair to turn a yellow colour
- hair on your face, including eyelashes and eyebrows, to grow more quickly and thickly.
- mens facial hair growth to slow and eyebrows to thin
- changes to your nails, for example, they might become discoloured, brittle and dry.
When you can expect your hair to grow back depends on the type of targeted treatment you had ask your medical team for guidance.
Chemotherapy And Hair Loss
Certain chemotherapy medicines used to treat breast cancer can cause the hair on your head to become thin or to fall out completely. Some chemotherapy medicines can also cause hair loss on other parts of your body, such as your eyebrows and eyelashes, pubic hair, and hair on your legs, arms, or underarms.
Whether you lose your hair and how much you lose depends on a variety of factors. This includes the type, combination, and dose of chemotherapy medicines you get, as well as other medical conditions , nutrition status, and stress. The timing of chemotherapy treatments also affects hair loss. Some types of chemotherapy are given weekly and in small doses, which may minimize hair loss. Other types of chemotherapy are scheduled every 3 to 4 weeks in higher doses and may be more likely to cause more hair loss.
Talk with your doctors before chemotherapy begins so you know what to expect in your individual situation. If you find out that you will be receiving chemotherapy medicines that are likely to cause hair loss, you may want to look into the possibility of using a scalp cooling system or manual cold caps during your infusion sessions to help limit the amount of hair you lose. Read more about preventing hair loss with Cold Caps and Scalp Cooling Systems.
Some of the chemotherapy medicines used to treat breast cancer that can cause hair loss are:
12 months: 46 inches of hair
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What Cancer Medicines Cause Hair Loss
Hair loss is a common side effect of some cancer medicines including certain chemotherapy and targeted therapy drugs. The likelihood and severity of hair loss is different for each medicine. Families should talk with their doctor or pharmacist to understand the risk of hair loss for the specific drug regimen prescribed.
|Medicines with High Risk of Hair Loss||Medicines with Moderate Risk of Hair Loss|
Visit the List of Medicines to view possible side effects for different drugs.
The risk of hair loss during chemotherapy depends on factors such as:
- Dose of chemotherapy Higher doses of chemotherapy increase risk of hair loss.
- Method or route of administration IV chemotherapy can have greater risk compared to medicines taken by mouth.
- Frequency of chemotherapy Patients who get chemo every 2-3 weeks may have more hair loss than with a weekly chemotherapy regimen.
- Whether chemotherapy is given as a single drug or in combination Combination chemotherapy often increases risk of hair loss.
- Other factors that may increase the risk of hair loss during chemotherapy include
- Previous treatment with chemotherapy
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Hair Care Before Radiation Therapy
Patients may notice their hair becoming thin and more delicate as they begin the radiation treatment. This is normal as the hair structure weakens and falls from the scalp, but it can cause quite a mess if the hair is not cared for properly during this process. Many people decide to cut their hair as short as possible to minimize clean-up or tangling to prepare for hair loss. If a patient expects total hair loss, they should preemptively take wig measurements or search for comfortable head coverings. These things are not necessary, but they can help people experiencing hair loss feel confident and protect their scalps while undergoing treatment. Before the expected hair loss, experts at Allusions can match the patients remaining hair to a beautiful wig so they can keep their natural look.
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What Is Hair Loss
Some cancer treatments may cause hair loss. This is due to the fact that any treatment which acts on growing cancer cells may also affect other growing cells like hair roots . Before treatment starts, talk to your doctor about the possibility of hair loss as a side effect of cancer treatment and the level of hair loss you can expect.
If Youre Having Radiation Therapy To The Pelvis
Radiation therapy to the pelvis can cause side effects such as:
- Bladder problems
- Fertility problems
- Changes in your sex life
You might also have some of the same problems people get from radiation to the abdomen, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.
Radiation to the pelvis can cause problems with urination, including:
- Pain or burning sensations
- Blood in the urine
- An urge to urinate often
Most of these problems get better over time, but radiation therapy can cause longer-term side effects as well:
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Easing Worries About Radiation Therapy
Its normal to worry about possible side effects of radiation therapy.
Talk with your health care provider about your concerns.
Your provider may be able to suggest a hospital social worker, patient navigator, psychologist or support group to help ease anxiety related to radiation therapy .
With any standard radiation therapy, you will not be radioactive when you leave the radiation treatment center. You will not pose any radiation risk to your family or your pets.
Learn more about support groups.
Tips For Scalp Cooling
To improve the chances of the cold cap being effective, its important the cap covers the whole scalp and fits snugly. You may find the cap uncomfortable, as its very cold and often quite heavy. Some people get headaches, but these usually wear off quickly once the cap is removed. You dont need to cut your hair short before you start treatment, however if your hair is very long or thick it may be helpful to cut it to reduce some weight and make it more manageable.
So that the cold can reach the scalp the chemotherapy nurses may recommend that the hair underneath the cap is lightly dampened. Before the cap is fitted the hair can be sprayed with lukewarm water. A water spray bottle is ideal for this.
Applying a small amount of conditioner to the dampened hair can help with removing the cold cap at the end of treatment. There is no need to leave the conditioner in your hair unless you feel unable to wash it out.
Before the cap is put on the hair should be gently combed back using a wide tooth comb or your fingers so that the front hairline is visible. This is especially important if you have a fringe.
Being able to tolerate the cold will vary widely from person to person. The intense feeling of discomfort or even aching that is felt in the first 10-15 minutes of the treatment should go away as you get used to the cold. Wearing warm layers, sipping hot drinks and covering yourself with blankets can also help.
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