Hair Loss During Chemo
WHAT IS CHEMO HAIR LOSS?
Chemotherapy is a drug treatment designed to terminate cancer cells, and unfortunate side effects like hair loss often accompany it. If you’re undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, the emotional and psychological effects are catastrophic. Not only is a cancer diagnosis and treatment a distressing life-event, but the experience can deteriorate your self-esteem, confidence, and wellbeing. A woman’s hair weaves into her identity, and having that stripped away is heartbreaking. You are not alone, as approximately 65 percent of cancer patients experience hair loss, according to a 2017 study on cancer-related hair loss.
At Daniel Alain, we strive to help bring compassionate awareness to cancer-related Alopecia and reinvigorate your confidence with valuable education, resources, and solutions.
What Diseases Cause Hair Loss?
Not all forms of cancer, nor all types of chemotherapy, will induce Alopecia. Talk with your oncologist about your treatment program and whether or not one of the side-effects is hair loss. Finding out early will help you plan and prepare for the natural yet emotional response to losing hair.
Cancer-Related Alopecia Occurs As A Side Effect Of:
● Radiation therapy
● Targeted therapy
● Bone marrow or stem cell transplants
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF CANCER-RELATED HAIR LOSS
Hair loss from Chemotherapy-induced Alopecia typically occurs 2-4 weeks after treatment starts. The amount of hair loss relates to the type of drug used, the dosage, and whether it’s a medication, injection, or topical treatment. It’s 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.
WHY DOES CHEMO CAUSE HAIR LOSS?
Also known as Chemotherapy-Induced Alopecia, this form of hair loss results from a sudden loss of hair during the growth phase (anagen phase) of the natural growth cycle. The growth cycle becomes disrupted by a sudden, environmental shock such as radiation or chemotherapy. Cancer treatment causes the hair cells to stop dividing, resulting in temporary and, most often, total hair loss.
Any physical shock or trauma can cause Telogen Effluvium, the body’s response to a significant life event. Stress on the body generates a shift in the growth cycle, sending an influx of hair into the telogen (shedding) phase. The onset of this excessive hair loss and hair thinning occurs about 2-3 months after a major event such as chemotherapy, major surgery, or radiation. Once treatment is complete, hair begins to regrow within 3-6 months.
HOW TO PREVENT CHEMO HAIR LOSS
There is no way to prevent cancer-related hair loss caused by chemotherapy, radiation, or cancer treatment. It’s important to keep perspective. Remember that although hair loss is a side effect of chemotherapy, it’s vital to your health and recovery to work closely with your oncologist and medical team to choose the safest healing path. Fortunately, cancer-related hair loss is temporary, and there are things you can do to help you transition and adjust to your body’s natural reaction to cancer-related Alopecia.
CANCER HAIR LOSS TREATMENT
Depending on the treatment type and dosage, hair usually starts to regrow 1-3 months after the last cycle of chemotherapy. Still, the regrowth process is complex and might happen slower than you’d like. Complete hair regrowth can take 6-12 months, and it might feel and look different than your hair before treatment.
Below are some tools listed to help you manage the physical and emotional trauma of cancer-related hair loss:
● Cut hair before beginning chemotherapy treatment, which will add volume as hair starts to thin and shed. It can also help make the transition to total hair loss smoother.
● Cold cap therapy - The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends wearing a cold cap on the scalp before, during, or after chemotherapy injections, which decreases blood flow and minimizes the potential of the drug reaching hair follicles.
● Minoxidil is an over-the-counter drug that helps alleviate hair thinning caused by hormonal or targeted therapy treatment.
● Use fragrance-free products and avoid pressure from tight hairstyles, as well as hair products that contain harsh chemicals like straighteners and relaxers.
● Try hair-growth supplements like B-vitamins or Biotin. Consult with your health care team before implementing any supplements or medications during treatment.
● Wear a top piece or human-hair wig, which provides natural, bouncy movement that can match your existing, or typical hair type.
● Help retain hair and decrease shedding with INTACT - a scalp and hair treatment clinically-proven to reduce shedding and help retain hair.