Dealing With Cancer Therapy Hair Loss
Hair loss can be one of the most difficult side effects of cancer treatments to deal with for both women and men. Talk with your doctor or nurse about your treatment plan and whether it may cause hair loss.
Hair loss occurs because many cancer treatments affect cancer cells and normal cells. This includes the cells that make hair grow.
Hair loss from cancer treatment is most often not permanent. Hair loss may affect all the hair on your body. Hair grows back once therapy has been completed. The amount of hair loss depends on the cancer treatment, the dose of treatment, and how it is given. If your treatment affects the hair, your hair may start falling out between seven to 21 days after you start your treatment.
In radiation, only hair that is in the area of radiation will be affected by hair loss. Only if radiation is given to the head will one lose hair on the head. Radiation given to other parts of the body will not cause hair on the head to fall out. Very rarely with radiation there might be an area where the hair is permanently thinner.
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:
Talking To Children About Hair Loss
It may be helpful to keep in the mind the following when talking to a child about a parent or loved one experiencing hair loss:
Children benefit from simple and clear explanations that are easy to understand.
Provide concrete, age-appropriate information when speaking. Explain that the medications that their loved one is taking to help manage cancer may cause hair to fall out, and distinguish that hair loss is a result of treatment and not cancer.
Some children will want to hear more detailed scientific explanations, and others will be satisfied with general information. Answer your childrens questions as accurately as possible. Take their age and prior experiences with serious illness into account. If you do not know the answer to a question, dont panic. Its okay to say, I dont know. I will try to find out the answer and let you know.
Oncology social workers can help you to find the best ways of engaging in these conversations given your childs age and developmental stage.
Keep in the mind the following when helping a child understand their own hair loss as a side effect of treatment:
Edited by A.J. Cincotta-Eichenfield, LMSW
Don’t Miss: Does Vit D Help With Hair Loss
When Can I Perm Straighten Or Dye My Hair
Ask your medical team how long you should wait after finishing treatment before you colour, chemically straighten or perm your hair. Traces of chemotherapy in your hair strands could react with the chemicals used in the styling processes.
Natural, temporary dyes might be better than permanent chemical products. If youd like to dye your hair, you could ask your clinical nurse specialist if a vegetable-based hair dye that you wash out is suitable for you. These are milder and less damaging to your hair and scalp than chemical ones.
Whichever treatment type youve had, your new hair might be fragile so you should wait for at least six months after your hair has started to grow back before you have woven-in or glued-in hair extensions.
What Causes Hair Loss In Cancer Patients
Chemotherapy targets cancer cells that divide rapidly. But some healthy cells in the body also divide rapidly, like those lining the mouth and stomach, and in the hair follicles. When cancer treatments, especially certain chemotherapy drugs, damage the healthy, fast-growing cells responsible for hair growth, alopecia may result. Radiation therapy may also cause hair loss in the specific area of the body being treated.
Although hair loss does not always happen right away, it usually begins within two weeks of starting chemotherapy treatment and progresses over the following two months. Hair loss in the area being treated with radiation treatment usually begins up to three weeks after the first treatment. Hair loss may continue throughout treatment and up to a few weeks afterward.
Hair loss may occur on the head and/or elsewhere on the body, including the face , hair on the arms, underarms and legs, and pubic hair.
Read Also: Does Dupixent Cause Hair Loss
Lymphoma Treatment And Hair Loss
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.
How To Prepare For 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.
Recommended Reading: Does Dimethicone Cause Hair Loss
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
Can Cold Caps And Scalp Cooling Prevent Hair Loss During Treatment
Cooling the scalp can sometimes prevent or reduce hair loss from the head for both men and women having chemotherapy. This technique works by reducing the blood flow to the hair follicles, which means that the amount of drugs reaching the hair follicles is also reduced.
The effectiveness of scalp cooling varies depending on the drug and dose used, and from person to person. If you do keep your hair, you may find that its patchy or thinner. Scalp cooling is often less effective on African and Caribbean hair, so increased cooling times may be recommended.
There are two widely available ways of cooling the scalp. One method uses a cold cap, which is a hat filled with a gel that can be chilled. The other system uses a small, refrigerated cooling machine to pump a liquid coolant through the cap. In both cases the cap is worn before, during and after chemotherapy, so scalp cooling can mean youre at the hospital for longer.
You can ask your specialist or chemotherapy nurse if scalp cooling is available and whether it would be suitable for you. The condition of your hair and any previous use of chemicals on it may affect how well scalp cooling works. Your chemotherapy nurse will discuss this with you.
Some doctors have been concerned that scalp cooling may increase the risk of developing secondary cancers in the brain or scalp due to the possibility of constricted blood vessels limiting the amount of chemotherapy reaching the area.
Don’t Miss: How To Stop Itchy Scalp Hair Loss
To Avoid Making Hair Fall Out Faster:
- Use a gentle shampoo and conditioner to lessen the pull on hair while combing. Try to stay away from shampoos with lots of chemicals that can dry out your scalp. Avoid shampoos and conditioners with strong fragrances, alcohol or salicylic acid.
- Using or sleeping in hair curlers can pull on the hair and cause it to fall out quicker.
- Try to avoid coloring, bleaching or perming your hair at this point–it could weaken it and make it fall out faster.
- Lower your use of hair dryers, straightening irons and curling irons. Try air-drying your hair.
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.
Recommended Reading: What Hormone Imbalance Causes Hair Loss
Is Radiation Contributing To My Hair Loss Too
Some people receive both radiation and chemotherapy treatments, and both can contribute to hair loss. Radiation affects hair only on the body area that is treated. This may mean the hair on that area is lost, but not the hair on your scalp . At lower doses, radiation hair loss is temporary, but at higher doses it can be permanent.
What Kind Of Hair Loss Does Chemo Cause
At any given time, most of the hair follicles on our head and body are in an active phase of growth, called the anagen stage. Chemotherapy disrupts this active growth stage, causing the follicles to shut down and stop producing the cells that make up our strands of hair. This particular form of hair loss is called anagen effluvium.
While losing the hair on your head is common, you might also notice the loss of other body hair. Loss of eyebrows and eyelashes, as well as axillary and pubic hair is possible too, said Dr. Daniel Vorobiof, oncologist and chief medical director of Belong Life.
You might also see varying degrees of hair loss. Total alopecia is common, but it can also be scattered or patchy, added Dr. Vorobiof.
Learn More: Anagen Effluvium Explained
Read Also: Does Nioxin Work For Thinning Hair
Everything You Need To Know About Hair Loss In Women: Causes Symptoms And Treatment
The online outlet for medical information and news, MedicalNewsToday.com, cites a dermatologist who says, Hair loss in a woman is so emotionally devastating that it can trigger a wide range of social and emotional issues that can negatively impact healthy daily living and overall quality of life.
This is testimony to the need to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatment of hair loss to assist women who are struggling with this condition so much that they hesitate to participate in social situations because of it.
This article is for you if you are one of the more than 50 percent of women dealing with hair loss. We focus on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of hair loss. But lets start by defining what hair loss means.
Looking After Your Hair During Breast Cancer Treatment
The following tips may be helpful for all hair types during treatment:
- try not to wash your hair for about two days after chemotherapy, especially if having scalp cooling
- use a mild, unperfumed shampoo and conditioner
- try not to wash your hair more than twice a week
- use warm rather than hot water
- pat your hair dry rather than rubbing it
- brush or comb your hair gently with a soft hairbrush or wide tooth plastic comb
- avoid plaiting or braiding it as this may damage your hair
- avoid using elastic bands to tie back long hair
- avoid any hair colours and dyes, perms, relaxers and other products containing strong chemicals
- avoid products containing alcohol, such as hairspray, which can irritate the scalp
- avoid excessive heat from hair straighteners, hairdryers, hot brushes and heated rollers
- massaging the scalp may help by improving the blood supply to the hair follicles
- avoid hair extensions and weaves as these can also weaken the hair
If chemotherapy doesnt cause hair loss, it may make it brittle, dry or straw-like, so its a good idea to treat your hair as gently as possible. Hormone therapy can also cause the hair to thin and feel fragile.
Due to its structure, African and Caribbean hair is the most vulnerable to damage of all hair textures so it is recommended to take special care and use specific products.
Don’t Miss: How To Stop Hair Loss Due To Weight Loss