Where To Get A Wig
How do you find a wig? There are a number of options:
- At a wig shop. You can get recommendations for local wig shops or specialists through breast cancer organizations, your hospitals cancer center, or through your hairdresser. Some wig specialists come to your home to provide additional privacy.
- Online. Like most things nowadays, you can shop for a wig online. Online retailers have a large selection of wigs in every color, length, and style. Some offer consultations over the phone or via email to help you find the right style for you. This can also be a good option if youd prefer more privacy when selecting your wig.
- Through a charity program. Instead of shopping for a wig , you may want to look into getting a wig for free through programs of the American Cancer Society or other nonprofit organizations .
Wherever you decide to shop for a wig, be sure to find out about return and exchange policies in advance. You may want to try on several wigs at home and return some of them, or you may decide after trying some on that you dont want to opt for a wig at all. So, its useful to know if there will be restocking fees or other limitations on returns.
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Why Does Radiation Therapy Cause Hair Loss
Radiation therapy not only destroys cancerous cells, but may also affect healthy cells in your body. The healthy cells that are most at risk for being damaged by radiation therapy are those that tend to grow at a fast rate, including hair cells. Thinning of hair and, in some cases, complete hair loss may result.
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Radiation Treatment And Hair Loss
Radiation therapy uses a high-energy beam to damage quickly growing cells in your body. The goal is to target cancer cells, but some normal cells get damaged as well.
Radiation only causes hair loss on the particular part of the body treated. If radiation is used to treat the breast, there is no hair loss on your head. But there might be loss of hair around the nipple, if you have hair there.
Radiation to the brain, used to treat breast cancer that has spread to the brain, can cause hair loss on your head. Depending on the dose of radiation, your hair may be patchier when it grows back or it may not grow back.
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Things To Know About Chemotherapy
Starting chemotherapy for the first time? If you are new to this common cancer treatment, youâre probably wondering how chemotherapy works, if you will lose your hair or even if chemotherapy hurts.
We spoke with , to learn more. Heres what she had to say.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a group of medications that can shrink or destroy cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is used in a variety of ways. It may be given to rid the body of cancer, to shrink cancer so that surgery can be performed, or to control the disease and prolong someones life as long as possible.
How does chemotherapy work?
There are multiple types of chemotherapy, and each kind works a bit differently. In general, chemotherapy attacks rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells. Chemotherapy alters a cancer cells ability to grow or replicate itself. It can cause the cancer cell to die by not functioning properly or stop it from spreading by interfering with its ability to reproduce.
How are chemotherapy drugs usually given?
Most chemotherapy drugs are given through an IV, but some are injected into muscle, under the skin or directly into the spinal fluid. Other chemotherapy drugs can be swallowed in pill form.
Chemotherapy is often given in combination with other chemotherapy drugs or with other treatments, such as targeted therapy, radiation therapy or immunotherapy.
Does chemotherapy hurt?
What are the most common side effects of chemotherapy?
Am I going to lose my hair?
Hormone Therapy For Postmenopausal Women
After menopause, hormone therapy for women with metastatic breast cancer can be an aromatase inhibitor, tamoxifen, fulvestrant or other hormone therapy drug.
If the first hormone therapy stops working and the cancer starts to grow again, a second hormone therapy can be used. If the second drug stops working, another can be tried.
Ovarian suppression isnt helpful for postmenopausal women because their ovaries have already stopped producing large amounts of estrogen.
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Radiation Therapy Side Effects
The side effects of radiation therapy depend on the type of radiation therapy youre having. In general, the side effects tend to develop as treatment goes on and may be more troubling toward the end of treatment. Overall, the most common side effects are redness, swelling, and skin peeling in the area being treated. Read more about radiation therapy side effects.
Can Breast Cancer Treatment Cause Permanent Hair Loss
Hair loss caused by chemotherapy is almost always temporary so hair will usually start to grow back once your treatment is over. Some people find that it starts to grow back before they have completed all their chemotherapy.
There is some evidence that chemotherapy may result in prolonged or permanent hair loss, particularly with taxane drugs . Permanent hair loss is described as incomplete regrowth of hair six months or more after completing treatment.
At the moment there is no definite evidence to say how often this happens, which may mean that this possible side effect is not included in written information given to patients undergoing chemotherapy.
As hair loss is common in both people with cancer and in the general population, its often difficult to be sure whether problems with hair regrowth are due to treatment, genetics or other factors such as extreme stress or medical conditions, or a combination of these things.
After radiotherapy, any hair that you lost from the treated area will usually grow back. You may find that the regrowth is patchy and it can take several months to grow back completely. Its also possible that the hair may not grow back at all. This will depend on the dose of radiotherapy and the number of treatments youve had.
Once you have finished taking hormone therapy, your hair should return to how it was before treatment. However, this may take some time and for some may not fully return to the same thickness.
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Will Radiation Therapy Cause My Hair To Fall Out
Only people who get radiation to the scalp or the brain may have hair loss. Others wont. If it does happen, itâs usually sudden and comes out in clumps. In most cases, your hair will grow back after therapy stops, but it may be thinner or have a different texture.
Some people choose to cut their hair short before treatment begins to make less weight on the hair shaft. If you lose hair on top of your head, be sure to wear a hat or a scarf to protect your scalp from the sun when you go outside. If you decide to buy a wig, ask the doctor to write a prescription for one and check to see if its covered by your insurance or is a tax-deductible expense.
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Why Do People Lose Their Hair With Breast Cancer
Hair loss after a breast cancer diagnosis usually occurs because of a treatment for breast cancer. Although hair loss most commonly happens during chemotherapy, it can also happen with:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
Chemotherapy targets cells that replicate and grow rapidly. Cancer cells fall into this category, but so do hair cells. Because of this, chemotherapy drugs kill cancerous cells and hair cells, leading to hair loss. Hair loss caused by chemotherapy usually stops after it is completed, and the hair grows back. It may be a different texture and color, and in some cases, it does not grow back as thick as before.
Other types of breast cancer treatment cause hair loss for similar reasons. Some only cause hair thinning, which you may not even notice. Others may cause hair to fall out quickly in large clumps. Note that although hair loss on the scalp is a common side effect of treatment, body hair loss can also occur.
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Support If You Lose Your Hair
Losing your hair can be a particularly distressing side effect of treatment. Finding ways to feel more confident in your new appearance can help you to accept and adjust to what has happened, and feel more like yourself again.
Everyones experience of hair loss is different and theres no right or wrong way to feel. Its important you find your own way of dealing with it, but it can be helpful to talk to others and find out what worked for them. Some areas have support groups where you can talk to other people who have experienced hair loss. Your breast care nurse will be able to tell you about local support.
You can also ask your breast care nurse and local cancer information centre for more information about hair loss services in your area.
Breast Cancer Nows Moving Forward courses and Moving Forward resource pack are for anyone who has had a diagnosis of primary breast cancer, helping you approach life after treatment with more confidence.
You can also chat to other people going through breast cancer on our online discussion Forum.
What Else Contributes To Hair Loss
There are a number of non-cancer related medications that are associated with hair loss that might accentuate the effects of chemotherapy drugs if used in combination.
Some of these include retinoids , anti-thyroid medications, L-Dopa , amphetamines, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and several antidepressants such as tricyclic antidepressants and Wellbutrin .
In addition to medications, illness, surgery, or dietary changes may lead to hair loss.
Thyroid disease may cause hair loss and may occur with cancer treatment .
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When Not To Use Scalp Cooling
Scalp cooling is not suitable for use in all types of cancer or situations. You wont normally have scalp cooling if there is too high a risk that there might be cancer cells in your scalp blood vessels. This is because the cells in the scalp blood vessels might survive the treatment.
Scalp cooling is not recommended in people:
- with blood cancers such as leukaemia and lymphoma
- whose cancer has spread to the scalp
- who are due to have radiotherapy to their scalp
You would not have scalp cooling with continuous chemotherapy through a pump or with chemotherapy tablets. This is because you would have to wear the cold cap for 24 hours a day.
Coping With Hair Loss
Hair is constantly growing, with old hairs falling out and being replaced by new ones. Some cancer treatments make people lose some or all of their hair, most often in clumps during shampooing or brushing.
Its normal for both men and women to feel upset about losing their hair. It helps to know that hair grows back, and you can take steps to make its loss less of problem for you.
Hair is lost when chemotherapy drugs damage hair follicles, making hair fall out. It can be hard to predict which patients will lose their hair and which ones wont, even when they take the same drugs. Some drugs can cause hair thinning or hair loss only on the scalp. Others can also cause the thinning or loss of pubic hair, arm and leg hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes.
Radiation therapy to the head often causes scalp hair loss. Sometimes, depending on the dose of radiation to the head, the hair does not grow back the same as it was before.
If hair loss is going to happen, it most often starts within 1-3 weeks of treatment and becomes more noticeable 1 to 2 months after starting therapy. Your scalp may feel very sensitive to washing, combing, or brushing. But hair often starts to grow back even before treatment ends.
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Managing Ongoing Hair Thinning
Breast cancer treatments such as hormonal therapy, targeted therapy, and chemotherapy can cause some people to have ongoing mild to moderate hair loss. If youre concerned that your hair isnt growing back or is noticeably thinner than in the past, its a good idea to see a dermatologist. If possible, seek out one who specializes in hair loss or an onco-dermatologist who focuses on problems with the hair, skin, and nails that can develop during cancer treatment. The dermatologist will order blood tests to check whether there are other reasons for your hair loss besides the effects of breast cancer treatments. Thyroid problems, nutritional deficiencies, and other factors can play a role in hair loss.
For mild to moderate hair loss, dermatologists often recommend Rogaine , an over-the-counter medication that promotes hair growth. Its safe for people with a history of breast cancer and moderately effective. But check with your oncologist before you start using minoxidil. In most cases, you can use it while you take hormonal therapy or targeted therapy, but not during chemotherapy treatment. Look for products labeled 5% minoxidil foam that you apply to your scalp when your hair and scalp are dry. Its ok for women to use minoxidil products labeled for men. Minoxidil is thought to stimulate hair growth by, among other things, improving blood flow in the scalp and prolonging the growth phase of each hair follicle.
How Can I Handle Fatigue
The fatigue you feel from cancer and radiation therapy is different from other times you may have felt tired. Itâs an exhaustion that doesnât get better with rest and can keep you from doing the things you normally do, like going to work or spending time with family and friends. It also can seem different from day to day, which makes it hard to plan around it. It can even change how well youre able to follow your cancer treatment plan.
Let your doctor know if youâre struggling with fatigue. They might be able to help. There are also things you can do to feel better:
- Take care of your health. Be sure youre taking your medications the way youre supposed to. Get plenty of rest, be as active as you can, and eat the right foods.
- Work with a counselor or take a class at your cancer treatment center to learn ways to conserve energy, reduce stress, and keep yourself from focusing on the fatigue.
- Save your energy for the activities that are most important to you. Tackle them first when youâre feeling up to it.
- Keep a balance between rest and activities. Too much bed rest can make you more tired. But dont over-schedule your days without giving yourself breaks.
- Ask for help from family and friends. If fatigue is interfering with your job, talk with your boss or HR department and ask about taking some time off from work or making adjustments in your schedule.
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