Effect Of Other Cancer Therapies
The newer targeted therapies for cancer don’t usually cause total hair loss like chemotherapy drugs but can result in changes such as thinning of the hair and dryness, as well as changes in texture similar to chemo curls. Some targeted therapies may also affect the pigmentation of hair, often causing the hair to become darker.
Some of the targeted therapies that have been linked with hair changes or hair loss include:
- Cyclin-dependent kinase 4/6 inhibitors such as Ibrance , Kisqali , and Verzenio
- VEGF inhibitors such as Nexavar
- BRAF inhibitors such as Zelboraf and Tafinlar
- Bcr/Abl inhibitors such as Tasigna and Gleevec
Some of the hormonal therapies commonly used for breast cancer have been associated with thinning of the hair for some people. Unlike chemotherapy, people may be using the drug for many months or even years before they notice the changes in their hair. Hormonal therapies more often linked to hair loss include:
- Aromatase inhibitors: Hair loss appears to be more common with Arimidex and Femara than with Aromasin .
Immunotherapy drugs for cancer, at least checkpoint inhibitors, do not usually cause hair loss, though oftentimes these drugs are used along with chemotherapy. Researchers are looking at ways of harnessing the gene involved in autoimmune alopecia to improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
What Is Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy radiation from X-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
This cancer therapy is most commonly given using a machine that beams radiation into targeted areas of the body. However, it can also be administered internally via radioactive material placed into the body near the cancer cells or tumor, or it can be delivered intravenously.
Does Radiation Cause Permanent Changes To The Hair
Another important thing to keep in mind is that each patient’s physiology is unique, and its impossible to guarantee hair regrowth even at lower doses of radiation therapy. In many cases, hair growth resumes within a few months of ending radiation, though, like with chemotherapy, the texture of your hair might change along with your hair density.
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Chemo Less Likely To Cause Hair Loss
Some chemotherapy drugs result in only minimal hair loss, though these are often combined with drugs that cause more hair loss. These include:
- The platinums: Paraplatin , Platinol , Eloxatin
- Antitumor antibiotics: Bleo 15K , Mutamicin , low doses of epirubicin or doxorubicin
- Antimetabolites: Trexall, Otrexup, Rasuvo
- Oral cyclophosphamide
- Topoisomerase inhibitors: Novantrone , Hycamtin or Potactasol
- Alkylating agents: Hexalen
Coping With Radiation And Hair Loss
Because the skin will be sensitive from the radiation treatment, it is important to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging rays by wearing sunscreen. A soft hat with built in SPF is a great way to keep your face and scalp covered, protected and comfortable. Our All Cotton Snuggle Beanie, Soft All Cotton Beret and our Rosette Beanie all feature SPF 50 built right into the fabric and are soft enough to be worn on sensitive scalps.
Wearing a large sun hat is also a great way to provide skin protection when undergoing radiation. If your scalp is too sensitive for the harsher materials that sun hats are often made of, wearing a wig cap underneath will create a comfortable barrier between the hat and your scalp while also adding another layer of protection. Alternately, we recommend adding our Lace Hat Liner in soft cotton or bamboo underneath your favorite sun hat.
No matter what you decide to wear to protect your scalp when experiencing hair loss due to radiation, we offer a large selection of headwear items to choose from.
Please take a moment to ask any questions and leave us your feedback on this resource below.
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Not All Chemotherapy Causes Hair Loss
Some types of chemotherapy are more likely than others to cause hair loss. Talk to your doctor to learn if hair loss is a common side effect of the chemotherapy medications youve been prescribed. Your doctor can help you learn what to expect and when to expect it.
In most cases, hair loss begins within two to four weeks of starting chemotherapy, according to the Mayo Clinic. The degree of hair loss can vary, depending on the type and dose of chemotherapy drug given.
What Are My Options
There are many ways to cover up hair loss. Hats, scarves and turbans are popular options for men and women.
- hats â there are many styles to choose from
- scarves â versatile with many colour and fabric options, lightweight materials such as cotton are best
- turbans â easy to wear and widely available
- wigs â you can continue with a familiar style or try something new
Some hats, headbands or bandanas have optional fringe or hair attachments. If you still have some hair, changing your hairstyle can help cover up hair loss. Specialist hairdressers like mynewhair can offer advice.
In certain situations surgery to replace hair might be an option if your hair loss is permanent. This treatment is not available through the NHS.
You may not want to wear anything on your head. Accessories, clothing and makeup can express your style and draw attention away from hair loss.
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If Youre Getting Radiation Therapy To The Brain
People with brain tumors often get stereotactic radiosurgery if the cancer is in only one or a few sites in the brain. Side effects depend on where the radiation is aimed. Some side effects might show up quickly, but others might not show up until 1 to 2 years after treatment. Talk with your radiation oncologist about what to watch for and when to call your doctor.
If the cancer is in many areas, sometimes the whole brain is treated with radiation. The side effects of whole brain radiation therapy may not be noticeable until a few weeks after treatment begins.
Radiation to the brain can cause these short-term side effects:
- Trouble with memory and speech
Some of these side effects can happen because radiation has caused the brain to swell. Medicines are usually given to prevent brain swelling, but its important to let your cancer care team know about headaches or any other symptoms. Treatment can affect each person differently, and you may not have these particular side effects.
Radiation to the brain can also have side effects that show up later usually from 6 months to many years after treatment ends. These delayed effects can include serious problems such as memory loss, stroke-like symptoms, and poor brain function. You may also have an increased risk of having another tumor in the area, although this is not common.
Talk with your cancer care team about what to expect from your specific treatment plan.
When Does Radiation Hair Loss Start
This can also vary from person to person. Hair loss can take place during the treatment period or directly following, said Dr. Jae Pak, a hair restoration specialist and founder of Jae Pak Medical.
For some, hair loss occurs quite suddenly, and it can be quite drastic, while others might lose hair within a few weeks of starting treatment. Hair loss might also continue throughout the treatment, and it might continue for a little while once the treatment is completed.
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Signs & Symptoms Of Cancer
Chemotherapy or radiation hair loss typically occurs 2-4 weeks after treatment starts. The amount of hair loss relates to the type of drug used, the dosage, and whether its a medication, injection, or topical treatment. Its natural for women undergoing chemo to lose hair throughout the body, including on the scalp. You may notice overall thinning or hair fall in sections. Remember that, as unsettling as cancer-related alopecia hair loss is, the hair will typically grow back once treatment is complete. In the interim, cosmetic solutions can improve self-esteem and offer a newfound sense of identity and confidence until your hair grows back.
Tips To Help Prepare For Hair Loss
We give some tips below. However, the approach you decide to take is a very personal decision.
Consider your options
Take some time to think about your approach in advance of changes happening this could include what you might say to people, as well as if and how you choose to cover changes to your appearance.
Some people find it helpful to use an app that shows how you would look without hair. Search online for one thats suitable for your device.
Tell friends, family and colleagues that you expect to lose your hair
Letting people know that you might lose your hair can prepare you and them for this possibility. Having this conversation in advance might help to lessen your anxiety about others reactions to any changes in your appearance. You could also signpost them to our information, to help explain hair loss as a side effect of treatment.
Cut or shave your hair
Hair loss due to cancer treatment can be less obvious if you cut your hair short or shave it completely. Some people also find this more comfortable. It can also make it easier to fit headwear such as a wig. If you have a beard or moustache, you could also shave these this can help you get used to having less hair and heighten your sense of control over the situation.
Covering your hair loss
There are lots of headwear options available. We outline some popular choices below.
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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 youÃ¢ll 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
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Be Patient And Kind To Yourself
Receiving a cancer diagnosis and undergoing chemotherapy are perhaps some of the most difficult challenges one faces during their lifetime. Hair loss due to chemotherapy can add more difficulty to an already extremely difficult situation, so for this reason, its important to show yourself care, compassion and acceptance before, during and after chemotherapy.
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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.
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.
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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.
Radioprotective Drugs For Reducing Side Effects
One way to reduce side effects is by using radioprotective drugs, but these are only used for certain types of radiation given to certain parts of the body. These drugs are given before radiation treatment to protect certain normal tissues in the treatment area. The one most commonly used today is amifostine. This drug may be used in people with head and neck cancer to reduce the mouth problems caused by radiation therapy.
Not all doctors agree on how these drugs should be used in radiation therapy. These drugs have their own side effects, too, so be sure you understand what to look for.
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