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How Long Before Hair Loss With Chemo

Common Questions About Hair Loss And Cancer

Avoiding hair loss during Chemotherapy

Will chemo make me lose my hair? It depends. Hair loss is very common with certain chemo medicines. However, chemo does not always cause hair loss. Some patients may not lose their hair. Others may have thinning hair. With some chemotherapy, hair loss is complete and includes eyebrows, eyelashes, and body hair. The specific type of chemo and the dose you receive will determine the risk of hair loss and how it occurs.

When will my hair fall out after chemo? Usually, hair begins to fall out 2-3 weeks after starting chemo. Hair loss may be seen sooner or later, depending on the chemo schedule.

Will my hair grow back after chemo? Hair loss after chemo is usually temporary. But it might take a while to regrow hair after treatment ends. Most patients see hair growth 2-3 months after chemo is complete. New hair may appear more like peach fuzz and then will fill in as the hair growth cycle returns to normal. It can take 6-12 months before hair reaches full thickness. Parents may need to explain to children who had long hair that growing out the length can take a very long time. On average, hair grows about 6 inches per year.

Will I lose my hair after radiation? Hair loss after radiation therapy is generally limited to the parts of the body that receive treatment. Patients who have radiation to parts of the body other than the head will not lose the hair on their head unless they also receive chemo or other medicines that cause hair loss.

What Percentage Of Chemo Patients Lose Their Hair

According to a multicenter survey, the meantime of hair loss from chemotherapy is 18 days during the treatment. Average hair loss occurred in 99.9% of the patients undergoing chemotherapy, of which 65% of them faced excessive hair loss.

The mean time from completion of chemotherapy and the beginning of hair regrowth is 3.3 months. Scalp hair regrowth is successful in 98% of the patients. 47% of them used a wig for one year because of slow regrowth. The remaining people faced stunted hair growth for years.

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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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.

When Will I Begin To Lose My Hair

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You may start to see your hair thin or fall out 1 to 4 weeks after your first chemotherapy treatment and 4 weeks after you receive radiation therapy.

The amount of hair that falls out or thins depends on the type, dose, and timing of your treatments. The speed at which it falls out also varies from person to person. You may first notice hair on your pillow in the morning or see it when you shower or brush your hair.

Some people will experience hair thinning rather than hair loss. Hair thinning is when your hair feels and looks thinner in texture. Talk with your healthcare team about what to expect after your chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

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A Short Haircut Might Make A Difference

Shorter hair often looks fuller than longer hair. As a result, hair loss might be less noticeable if you have a short hairstyle. If you typically wear your hair long, consider cutting it before you begin chemotherapy.

After you start chemo, hair loss might make your scalp feel itchy, irritated, or sensitive. Shaving your head can help ease the discomfort. Many people also prefer the look of a cleanly shaved head to partial hair loss.

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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Chemo Curls Will My Hair Be A Different Texture Then Before

Most people say that initially following chemotherapy treatment their new hair growth does seem different then before treatment. It can take a while for new hair to fully regenerate and so the first hairs can often be finer and a different texture then before.

Over time, once two to three inches of new hair growth has been established most people find that their hair starts to revert back to a more familiar or regular texture and feel. Our hair texture refers to the shape straight, curly, afro hair etc. But generally speaking, people also talk about their hair texture in terms of its condition or how thick or thin it is.

The shape of the hair follicle determines whether or not a hair will be curly, wavy, afro or straight. The reason why hair texture can change is because the hair follicle can slightly collapse during hair loss. Therefore when it reforms the hair follicle can take on a new shape thus forming a different texture.

Some people report having chemo curls this often refers to new hair that is curly where as before chemotherapy treatment their hair was straighter. This can, in part, be explained because the shape of the hair follicle can alter during treatment and become twisted. A twisted follicle creates a curly hair shape whereas a tube shaped follicle produces a straight hair. Afro hair tends to grow back the same texture as before.

The average person has around 100,000 hairs on their head but amounts of hair vary from person to person.

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Covering The Cost Of Scalp Cooling

The cost of using cold caps or scalp cooling system varies depending on the manufacturer, the number of chemotherapy sessions you have, and the number of months you need to use the scalp cooling method.

Cold caps typically cost about $380 to $450 per month, plus shipping costs and a refundable security deposit in some cases. Scalp cooling systems can cost from $2,000 to $2,200 for a full course of chemotherapy. Some cancer centers also charge a facility fee each time you use their scalp cooling system during a chemotherapy infusion.

Insurance coverage for scalp cooling is not yet standard in the United States, but some people have successfully gotten their health insurance to cover some or all of the cost. Aetna is one health insurance company that considers scalp cooling to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy to be a medically necessary, covered expense . Check with your health insurance company to find out their policies. Also, contact the manufacturer that makes the cold cap or scalp cooling system you plan to use for advice on how to submit a claim to your health insurance company for reimbursement. Learn more about insurance coverage for the DigniCap system and about insurance coverage for the Paxman system.

Written by: Jen Uscher, contributing writer


  • Kruse M, Abraham J. Management of Chemotherapy-Induced Alopecia With Scalp Cooling. J Oncol Pract 2018. Available at:
  • Nancy Marshall, co-founder of The Rapunzel Project

    How You Might Feel About Losing Your Hair

    For many of us, the way we feel about ourselves is closely linked to the way we look, and so losing your hair can be devastating. You may feel anxious at the thought of losing your hair, or angry and unhappy that this has happened in addition to your cancer diagnosis and treatment.

    Some people feel guilty about being upset when they lose their hair as they feel there are other, more important things to worry about. However, theres no right or wrong way to feel and whether you lose some or all of your hair, the experience can be very distressing.

    Hair loss is such a visible side effect of treatment, and can change how you look and view yourself. Men and women often express negative feelings about losing the hair from their head. Men with breast cancer may also find the experience of losing the hair from their chest difficult.

    Hair loss may also make you feel vulnerable and exposed. You may see it as a constant reminder of your treatment, labelling you as a cancer patient or feel that hair loss has prevented you keeping your diagnosis private. Some people find that they adjust quickly to hair loss. Others find that it takes longer, or is more difficult to accept and adapt to than they imagined.

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    Hair Regrowth After Chemotherapy

    Luckily, hair loss is temporary for most people who undergo chemotherapy. How long it takes for the hair to grow back varies from person to person. Hair may start to grow back while you’re still undergoing chemotherapy or after the treatment has ended. Many people report seeing hair growth around four to six weeks after the end of treatment.

    When hair does grow back, be prepared that it may be a different texture or possibly even a different color than it was before you started treatment. For example, if you had straight hair, it may grow back in curly. Some people also find that their hair grows in gray, and then a few months later, it returns to their natural color.

    As your hair grows, use a gentle shampoo and conditioner. Are you interested in dyeing or coloring your hair after chemotherapy, especially if your hair has become a color that you don’t like? For the first six months, you may want to hold off on having chemical processes like perms or hair coloring done, because your hair is still fragile and your scalp is still very sensitive. Using a hairdryer or curling/straightening iron may also cause damage. Talk to your oncologist and your dermatologist for more personalized advice on the topic.

    How To Prepare For Hair Loss

    Dare to Bare Your Chemo Hair Loss
    • Each person is different. Ask your health care team if hair loss is likely to happen. If it is, ask if it will happen quickly or gradually.
    • If you are going to get chemotherapy that might cause hair loss, talk to your health care team about whether a cooling cap might help reduce your risk. More research is being done to understand how effective and safe cooling caps may be. There are some side effects of cooling caps to consider, such as headaches, scalp pain, and neck and shoulder discomfort. Talk to your health care team about the benefits, limitations, and side effects of cooling caps.
    • If the thought of losing your hair bothers you, you might choose to cut your hair very short or even shave your head before it starts falling out.
    • If you think you might want a wig, buy it before treatment begins or at the very start of treatment. Ask if the wig can be adjusted you might need a smaller wig as you lose hair. To match hair color, you can cut a swatch of hair from the top front of your head, where hair is lightest..
    • Wigs and other scalp coverings may be partially or fully covered by your health insurance. If so, ask for a prescription for a cranial prosthesis. Do not use the word wig on the prescription.
    • Get a list of wig shops in your area from your cancer team, other patients, or from the phone book. You can also order the American Cancer Societys tlc Tender Loving Care® catalog by visiting tlc or by calling 1-800-850-9445.

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    / How Do I Care For My Hair During My Chemotherapy

    During chemo we recommend gentle care for your hair. Dont wash it too often and always use a gentle, mild shampoo. If you need to use a hair dryer, make sure you always use the lowest temperature setting. Try not to let your hair dry out due to sun exposure, colour treatments or perms. Hard brushes and curlers are definitely to be avoided as well.

    Lymphoma Treatment And Hair Loss

    Hair loss is a side effect of some chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments. Less commonly, it can be a side effect of antibody therapy.

    Lymphoma treatment works on cells that divide rapidly, which includes lymphoma cells and hair cells this is why treatment can cause changes to your hair.

    Not everyone who has treatment for lymphoma experiences changes to their hair. Whether youre affected or not depends on lots of factors, including: your treatment , your age, and your overall health, including any other conditions you might have.

    Effects on your hair are usually short-term and can include:

    • slight thinning
    • changes in colour, which could include a streak or band of white hair
    • changes in texture, such as hair being thinner, coarser or more curly than before treatment.

    Mostly, hair eventually goes back to how it was before treatment for lymphoma.

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