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What Cancer Treatment Causes Hair Loss

Tips For Hair Loss Or Thinning

Chemotherapy Hair Loss During Breast Cancer Treatment
  • Use gentle hair products such as baby shampoos.
  • Don’t use perms or hair colours on thinning hair colours may not take well and perms can damage the hair.
  • Use a soft baby brush and comb thinning hair gently.
  • Avoid using hair dryers, curling tongs, hair straighteners and curlers on thinning hair and pat your hair dry after washing.
  • If your scalp flakes or itches this means it is dry use oil or moisturiser, not dandruff shampoo.
  • Protect your scalp by covering your head in the sun.

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 .

Common Causes Of Hair Loss

Hair loss is something that many people fear, especially men as they get older. Whilst balding and losing hair is most associated with aging males, it can affect anyone. This is because there are a number of conditions and deficiencies that can cause hair loss, many of which are not preventable. Most people assume hair loss is hereditary, but there are so many other things besides genetics that can determine your likelihood of losing your hair, some of which your probably didnt even know about!

Weve put together a list of five common causes of hair loss to give you a better idea of who can be affected by it and why, as well as whether the issue can be tackled.

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Targeted Therapy And Immunotherapy And Hair Loss

Some targeted therapies that are used to treat breast cancer can cause changes to the texture and color of your hair, or hair loss that is usually mild. These include:

  • Ibrance
  • Talzenna
  • Verzenio

If you experience some hair loss, it is likely to start soon after you start taking the targeted therapy. Your hair probably wont start growing back until several months after you stop taking the medicine. Taking an aromatase inhibitor and certain targeted therapies at the same time increases the risk that youll develop hair loss.

Immunotherapy generally doesnt cause hair loss, but hair loss has occurred in a small percentage of the people who take the immunotherapy Tecentriq .

Hair Loss And Your Job

New cancer treatment prevents hair loss from chemotherapy ...

There tends to be a lot less stigma with being open about a cancer diagnosis in the workplace than there was even a generation ago. If youre planning to continue working or to job hunt during treatment, youre likely to find that many colleagues are understanding about what youre going through.

Still, its up to you to decide how comfortable you feel telling your colleagues or others you interact with in your job about your diagnosis and treatment. If youve lost your hair and you want to maintain your privacy at work, you might choose to wear a wig that looks as close as possible to your natural hair and to otherwise conceal your hair loss . If youre not as concerned about privacy, you might wear a scarf or choose not to hide your hair loss.

How you decide to handle hair loss at work might also depend on your job role and industry. For instance, if you work in a field in which your appearance is front and center more, you might decide that concealing your hair loss on the days you go into work helps you feel more confident.

For more info about navigating your work life during breast cancer treatment, including what to do if you think youve experienced discrimination, see Breast Cancer and Your Job.

Written by: Jen Uscher, contributing writer

This page was developed with contributions from the following experts:

Nik Georgopoulos, Ph.D., associate professor in cell biology, Paxman Scalp Cooling Research Centre, School of Applied Sciences, University of Huddersfield, UK

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Tips To Help You Prepare For Losing Your Hair

If its likely you will lose your hair during cancer treatment, there are ways you can prepare:

  • eat a well-balanced diet before treatment starts to help your body cope better
  • talk to friends and family about losing your hair
  • buy a hat or other headwear to protect your head
  • talk to other people who have hair loss to share tips on how to cope
  • if you decide to wear a wig, buy one before treatment starts. It will be easier to match it to your colour and style, and you can get used to wearing it
  • buy products to help you cope with losing your eyebrows and eyelashes
  • you could also consider cutting your hair short:
  • you may find it easier to cut it in stages
  • dont use a blade to shave your head
  • its best to cut clean dry hair
  • you could ask a salon that specialises in styling people affected by cancer to cut your hair

A Variety Of Head Coverings Are Available

If you feel self-conscious about hair loss, wearing a head covering might help. From wigs to scarves to hats, there are many options. Such coverings can also protect your head from sunlight exposure and cold air.

If you think you might want a wig that matches your natural hair color, considering buying it before you begin chemotherapy. This may help the wig shop to better match the color and texture of your hair. Try on different styles until you find one you like.

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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.

Why Does Chemotherapy Cause Hair Loss

Dealing with Hair Loss from Cancer Treatment

The reason chemotherapy can cause hair loss is that it targets all rapidly dividing cells healthy cells as well as cancer cells. Hair follicles, the structures in the skin from which hair grows, include some of the fastest-growing cells in the body. If you’re not in cancer treatment, cells in your hair follicles divide every 23 to 72 hours. But as chemotherapy does its work against cancer cells, it also damages hair follicle cells. Within a few weeks of starting certain chemotherapy medicines, you may lose some or all of your hair. The hair loss can happen gradually or fairly quickly.

Also Check: How To Know What Type Of Hair Loss You Have

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.

Radiotherapy And Hair Loss

Radiotherapy affects hair in the area of the body that receives treatment. This is a common side effect of radiotherapy treatment and usually starts around 2 to 3 weeks after you first have a treatment session.

Radiotherapy damages lymphoma cells to stop them from dividing. However, it also damages healthy cells. Unlike lymphoma cells, healthy cells are able to recover. Cells that grow at a fast rate are more sensitive to these effects. Radiotherapy can therefore stop you from making new hair.

At lower doses of radiotherapy, hair loss is usually temporary. With higher doses, it might be permanent. The speed of hair re-growth depends on the type of radiotherapy, the number of treatments youve had and the area of the body treated.

Hair usually starts to grow back after around 3 to 6 months of treatment.

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Those Most And Least Likely Drugs To Have This Side Effect Of Cancer Treatment

Doru Paul, MD, is triple board-certified in medical oncology, hematology, and internal medicine. He is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and attending physician in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center.

To many, hair loss is one of the more dreaded side effects of chemotherapy for cancer. An estimated 65% of patients undergoing classic chemotherapy experience what doctors call alopecia. But while some chemotherapy medications almost always result in such hair loss, others typically cause minimal hair loss.

Other factors related to chemo can affect hair loss as well, such as the dose of the drug given. Of course, effectively treating your cancer is the top priority. But knowing about this potential in advance can help you prepare for it. Fortunately, there are options available to help people cope with this symptom.

Caring For Hair That Grows Back

Chemotherapy and Coping With Hair Loss

When your hair begins to grow back, it will be much thinner and more easily damaged than your original hair. It may also be a different texture or color. The following tips may help you take care of the hair that grows back.

  • Limit washing your hair to twice a week.

  • Massage your scalp gently to remove dry skin and flakes.

  • Use a wide-tooth comb instead of a brush for your hair. When styling your hair, limit the amount of pinning, curling, or blow-drying with high heat.

  • Avoid permanent or semi-permanent hair color for at least 3 months after treatment ends.

  • Avoid curling or straightening your hair with chemical products such as permanent wave solutions until it all grows back. You may need to wait up to a year before you can chemically curl or straighten their hair. Before trying chemical products again, test a small patch of hair to see how it reacts. You can also ask your hairdresser for suggestions.

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About Hair Loss Or Hair Thinning

Hair loss is one of the most well known side effects of cancer treatment. For many people losing their hair can be distressing and devastating.

It can be a constant reminder of your cancer and what youre going through. But for most people, their hair will grow back once treatment has finished.

Cancer drugs can cause:

  • mild thinning of your hair
  • partial hair loss, or loss of patches of hair
  • complete hair loss

Chemotherapy is the type of cancer drug treatment most likely to cause hair loss.

Complete hair loss is very unlikely with any other type of treatment. But some other cancer drugs can cause hair thinning. It is not possible to tell beforehand who will be affected or how badly.

Hair loss also depends on factors such as:

  • the type of drug or combination of drugs you are taking
  • the dose
  • the route
  • how sensitive you are to the drug
  • your drug treatment in the past

Hair Loss And Cancer Treatment

If treatment will cause hair loss, try wearing fun scarves and earringsor a cap, from time to time.

Some types of chemotherapy cause the hair on your head and other parts of your body to fall out. Radiation therapy can also cause hair loss on the part of the body that is being treated. Hair loss is called alopecia. Talk with your health care team to learn if the cancer treatment you will be receiving causes hair loss. Your doctor or nurse will share strategies that have help others, including those listed below.

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Why Does Chemotherapy Cause Your Hair To Fall Out

Chemotherapy drugs target rapidly dividing cells, so they damage some healthy cells as well as cancer cells. The healthy cells damaged include the cells in the hair follicles, which is why chemotherapy can make your hair fall out. As well as the hair on your head, this can also affect your body hair including eyebrows, eyelashes and pubic hair, and chest hair for men

Not all chemotherapy will make your hair fall out. Some drugs dont cause any hair loss, some cause hair to thin, while others make hair fall out completely. How much hair you lose will depend on the type of drugs you are given and the dose. Drugs that are given in smaller doses on a weekly basis or are taken by mouth are less likely to cause hair loss. If you are receiving a combination of chemotherapy drugs you are more likely to have hair loss. Your specialist or your chemotherapy nurse will talk to you about your treatment and how likely you are to lose your hair.

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Hair Loss During Cancer Treatment

Preventing Hair Loss During Cancer Treatment

Most of the time, as you might already be aware, the cause of hair loss for cancer patients isnt the cancer itself, but the treatment.

According to a 2015 review, approximately 65 percent of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy experience hair loss during treatment.

Thats a huge percentage of the population who experience the same, severe side effect.

The specific mechanism of hair loss from chemotherapy is actually a type of hair loss telogen effluvium.

Telogen effluvium is a hair loss disorder in which one of the three phases of your hairs growth cycle is interrupted.

The primary phase of the hair growth cycle is called the anagen phase. This is where the hair grows, and 90 percent of your hair should be in this phase at any time.

After that it enters a rest phase, called the catagen phase, before then entering hibernation in the telogen phase.

As many as nine percent of your hair follicles could be in this phase normally more is a cause for concern.

More, as you may have guessed, is the definition of telogen effluvium a sudden shift in the number of follicles actively hibernating on your head.

Visually, it looks like even thinning across your entire scalp, making your hair look sparse.

Telogen effluvium is typically caused by a stressor, which could be surgery, major trauma, extreme stress or chemotherapy.

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