Chemo Hair Fall Timeline
Patients undergoing a chemotherapy treatment will notice different levels of hair loss depending on the pattern of medication, dosage and type of cancer.
- A lot of patients experience hair fall within the first 1 or 2 weeks of treatment itself.
- Hair loss usually tends to begin from the side of the ears and top of the head. However, it varies for each individual.
- By about 3 months, complete balding may occur.
- Patients tend to notice their hair regrowing after 1 to 3 months. A change in hair color and texture may be evident but are usually not permanent.
- 60 percent of patients have reported a change in their color and hair type.
Did You Know?
- About 65 percent of patients undergoing chemotherapy experience alopecia .
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.
Common Questions About Hair Loss And Cancer
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.
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Hair Loss And Your Job
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
When Does Hair Grow Back After Chemotherapy
How long it takes for the hair on your head to grow back after chemotherapy varies a lot from person to person. Here’s a typical timetable for hair regrowth on the head:
- 34 weeks after chemotherapy ends: soft fuzz
- 1 month to 6 weeks after: real hair starts to grow
- 23 months after: about an inch of hair
- 36 months: about 23 inches of hair
- 12 months: 46 inches of hair
The hair on your head may be a different color, texture, or volume when it grows back. If you were dyeing or chemically treating your hair before you started chemotherapy, you might be surprised to see what your natural hair looks like when it grows back.
In many cases, hair eventually returns to the way it used to be after the effect of chemotherapy on the hair follicle wears off. But some people have incomplete hair regrowth. And sometimes permanent baldness and loss of eyebrows and eyelashes can occur, particularly in people who received Taxotere.
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I Am Not Far Behind You Girl
I meet with my surgeon tomorrow I meet with the Oncologist and the Radiologist on the 13th. Chemo is first for me and then radiation…I have heard from many people that yes, you will lose your hair pretty much after your 1st treatment. I am also scared…I have not went wig shopping yet but plan on it real soon. Do you mind if I add you as my friend so we can compare notes?
What To Do If You Experience Drug
Not everyone will lose hair when taking these medications for health conditions. In most cases, it’s a rare side effect. But if you suspect your prescription contributed to hair thinning or alopecia, you should seek medical advice ASAP. Talk to your pharmacist about the possible side effects of your medications. Also, consult with your doctor to discuss alternative treatments and rule out other possible causes of hair loss. Keep in mind that diagnosing drug-induced alopecia can be difficult, and the only way to confirm it may be to see if an improvement occurs after you stop taking the suspected drug.” However, do not stop taking the medication without first consulting your doctor.
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Can Anything Make My Hair Grow More Quickly
Some people think that if they rub or massage their scalp, their hair will grow more quickly. There is no evidence that this helps and, in fact, it could damage fragile new hair and so have a negative impact on hair regrowth.
There is some evidence that minoxidil solution might help it grow back faster. However, further research is needed. Speak to your medical team before using any over-the-counter medicines, to check that they are safe for you.
There are no complementary and alternative medicines recommended in the UK to help with treatment-related hair loss. This includes therapies and natural products such as vitamins, minerals and plant-based products.
If you are considering trying something to help your hair to re-grow, check with your medical team first that it is safe for you. Some could irritate your scalp and cause further hair loss.
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Will Body Hair Fall Out
If chemotherapy causes your scalp hair to fall often other facial and body hair can also be affected. If chemotherapy cause hair to fall out on your scalp it is highly likely to also cause body hair to also fall out.Examples of body hair that may also fall out are:
Leg, arm and underarm hairChest hairOther areas of the body where hair grows
Will My Hair Grow Back After Radiotherapy
Hair regrowth after radiotherapy will depend on lots of things, including the:
- type and dose of treatment
- number of treatments given
- area of your body affected.
Your radiographer can usually tell you before the treatment if your hair is likely to grow back.
If you have been told your hair will grow back, this can start once your skin has healed after treatment. Usually, your hair will start to grow back 3 to 6 months after finishing your treatment. But it may take longer if the treatment dose has been high. The hair that grows back may be thinner, patchy or a different colour.
Sometimes the hair loss is permanent. This can be especially upsetting if it affects the hair on your head. If you have hair loss on your head, you may want to wear a hairpiece, wig or some other type of headwear. It may also be possible to have a hair transplant.
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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.
How Quickly Will My Hair Grow Back
Hair loss after treatment is rarely permanent, but it might take a while to grow back.
Part of your hair is made of a protein called keratin. On average, hair grows at a rate of around 1cm or half an inch a month. However, after lymphoma treatment, you might have a temporary lack of keratin, which can weaken your hair and slow its growth. Once keratin levels return to normal, stronger hair can start to grow. How quickly your hair grows back depends on several factors, including the treatment type you’ve had, your individual response to it and your general health.
- After chemotherapy, hair follicles recover within a few weeks but it takes a bit longer before you can actually see new hair. Most people notice their hair growing back within 3 to 6 months of finishing chemotherapy, although it can take more or less time. Hair often grows back finer, straighter or curlier, or a different colour from how it used to be. Usually, in time, it returns to how it was before treatment. The change is permanent for a small number of people.
- After radiotherapy, it usually takes around 2 to 6 months for hair to grow back but it can take longer. Your hair might be curlier or a different texture than it was before treatment. In some cases, the hair loss can be permanent.
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What Happens To Hair Growth Once Chemo Is Over
Hair regrowth after chemotherapy is often a crazy adventure with new color, texture and “style” for a while. We don’t exactly know why, but dark hair may come in snow white, straight hair can come in curly, etc.
My own hair was as curly as a sheep’s, which I loved! My chemo curls were sweet and I was so glad to have hair again. The photo here is me with the last of my chemo curls. Why this happens is a mystery though. What we do know is that once chemotherapy is stopped, the chemotherapy drugs slowly leave the body and the matrix cells gradually recover and start dividing again. There’s probably a complex biochemical recovery that the cells go through when the matrix cells are stopped and then begin recovery after chemo. That process of recovery is most likely is why color and texture are a bit random.
We don’t know exactly what is going on, but researchers are studying the process in the hopes of understanding it.
The bottom line is that the process of post-chemo hair regrowth depends on a person’s unique hair follicle physiology and the chemo cocktail they received.
Typically, hair color and texture changes after chemo are temporary. I’d love my chemo curls to be permanent, but they are growing out and my hair is once again becoming straight.