Why do I lose hair during cancer treatment?
Hair loss depends on the type of cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, attack rapidly growing cancer cells. These treatments also affect normal, fast-growing cells, such as hair cells. Chemotherapy can cause hair loss on the scalp, pubic area, arms, legs, eyebrows, and eyelashes. Radiation therapy to the scalp often causes hair to fall off the scalp. Sometimes, depending on the radiation dose to your head, your hair may grow back in a different way than it did before, or it may not grow back.
When do I lose my hair?
You may start to see your hair thinning or falling out 1 to 4 weeks after your first chemotherapy treatment and 4 weeks after receiving radiation therapy. Hair loss depends on the type, dose, and timing of treatments. The speed at which it falls varies from person to person. You may first notice the hair on the pillow in the morning or while bathing or brushing your hair.
Some people experience hair thinning instead of hair thinning. Thinning hair means that your hair will look thinner in shape. Talk to your healthcare team about what to expect after your chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
What should you expect?
Hair usually begins to fall out two to four weeks after starting treatment. It descends very quickly in groups or gradually. You may notice loose hair accumulating on the pillow, in the hairbrush or comb, in the sink, or in the shower drain. Your scalp may feel smooth.
Hair loss will last throughout the treatment and up to a few weeks. Whether your hair is fine or completely bald depends on your treatment. People with cancer report that hair loss is a serious side effect of treatment. Every time you look in the mirror, your changed form reminds you of everything you experienced from your illness and your diagnosis.
When will your hair grow back?
It may take several weeks after treatment for your hair to recover and grow back. When your hair starts to grow back, it is a little different from the hair you lost. But the difference is usually temporary. Your new hair may have a different texture or color. It can be curlier than before or it can be grey until the cells that control the pigment in your hair start working again.
Can hair loss be prevented?
No treatment guarantees that your hair will not fall out during or after chemotherapy. Various treatments have been investigated as possible ways to prevent hair loss, but none of them is absolutely effective:
Scalp cooling caps (hypothermia of the scalp). During your chemotherapy decoction, you can put a tight-fitting cap on your head that has been cooled with cold liquid to decrease blood flow to the scalp. In this way, chemotherapy drugs are less likely to affect your hair.
Studies of scalp cooling caps and other forms of scalp hypothermia have found that they work to some degree in most people who try them. However, this procedure also increases the risk of cancer recurrence in the scalp because this area will not receive the rest of the chemotherapy dose in your body. People with cutaneous hypothermia report having an uncomfortable cold and headache.
Minoxidil (Rogaine). Using minoxidil approved for hair loss before and during chemotherapy is unlikely to prevent hair loss, although some research shows that it may accelerate hair growth. More research is needed to understand whether minoxidil is effective in regrowing hair after cancer treatment
Ways to control hair loss
Talk to your health care team about ways to manage before and after hair loss:
Take care of your hair delicately. You may want to use a soft bristle hairbrush or a wide-tooth comb. Do not damage your scalp with products such as hair dryers, irons or gels, or clips. Wash your hair with a mild shampoo. Wash less often and be very gentle. Keep dry with soft towels.
You have options. Some people cut their hair short to make it easier to deal with when the hair starts to fall out. Others choose to shave their head. If you choose to shave your head, use an electric razor to avoid cutting yourself. If you plan to buy a wig, buy one when you have hair to match your hair color. If you find your wigs itchy and itchy, try wearing a comfortable scarf or tiara.
Protect your scalp. Wear sunscreen or wear a hat when outside. Pick a comfortable scarf or hat that you like and it will keep your head warm. If your scalp feels itchy or soft, using lotions and conditioners can make your scalp feel better.
Talk about your feelings. Most people feel angry, depressed, or embarrassed about hair loss. It is helpful to share these feelings with those who understand. Talking to other people who have lost their hair during cancer treatment can be helpful for some people. Talking openly and honestly with your children and family can help everyone, too. Tell them that you expect their hair to be lost during treatment.
Ways to care for your hair when it grows back
- Be gentle. When your hair starts to grow back, be nice to it. Avoid excessive brushing, curling, and drying. You may not want to wash your hair frequently.
- After chemotherapy. Hair usually grows 2 to 3 months after treatment. This is great when your hair starts to grow back. Sometimes your new hair will be curly or tight, or a different color. Over time, this can go back to how it was before treatment.
- After radiation therapy. Hair usually grows 3 to 6 months after treatment. If you receive too much radiation, your hair will become thinner or not on the part of your body that has been exposed to the radiation.
- Be gentle with your hair. Get into the habit of being kind to your hair. Do not bleach, dye, or perm your hair, it will weaken it. Dry your hair as much as possible and avoid heating devices like curling irons and hot rollers. Now, the strengthening of your hair will likely stay on your head a little longer during the treatment.
- Consider cutting your hair. Short hair looks fuller than long hair. When your hair falls out, it won’t show if you have short hair. Also, if you have long hair, shortening it can help transform all of your hair into a good fit.
- Plan to cover your head. The time has come to start thinking about wigs, scarves, or other headgear. It is up to you whether or not you wear a headcover to hide hair loss. But it’s easier to plan now than later. Ask your doctor to prescribe a wig, the cost of which may be included in your health insurance coverage.
- Baby, do the rest of your hair. Continue your delicate hair strategies throughout your chemotherapy treatment. Use a soft brush. Wash your hair only as often as necessary. Consider using a mild shampoo.
- Consider shaving your head. Some people feel itchy, tender, and irritated skin during treatment and when their hair falls out. Shaving the head reduces irritation and protects against the discomfort of shedding.
- Protect your scalp. If your head is exposed to the sun or cold air, protect it with sunscreen or a headcover. Your scalp may be sensitive as the treatment goes on, so extreme cold or sunlight can easily irritate. Lack of hair or having short hair can make you feel cold, so covering your head is more comfortable for you.
- Continue with delicate hair care. Your new hair growth is particularly fragile and can be vulnerable to damage from styling products and heating equipment. Stop coloring or bleaching until your new hair grows strong. Processing can damage your new hair and irritate your delicate scalp.
- Be patient. Your hair will likely regress slowly and may not look normal right away. But growth can take time and it can also take time to repair the damage caused by cancer treatment.
Cover your head
Covering your head when your hair falls out is a completely personal decision. For most people, hair is associated with personal identity and health, which is why they choose to maintain that look by wearing a wig. Others choose hats and scarves. Others choose not to cover their heads.
Ask your doctor or hospital social worker about resources in your area.
Look Good Feel Better is a free program that offers hair and beauty makeovers and tips for women with cancer. These classes are offered throughout the United States and in many other countries. Many classes are offered through local chapters of the American Cancer Society. Look Good Feel Better offers classes and websites for teens with cancer, as well as a website and information guide for men with cancer.
Radiation therapy can also cause hair loss
Radiation therapy also attacks rapidly growing cells in your body, but unlike chemotherapy, it only affects the specific area where the treatment is concentrated. If you have radiation to your head, you will lose hair.
Your hair will start to grow normally after your treatments are over. But whether it will return to its original thickness and fullness depends on your treatment. Different types of radiation and different doses have different effects on your hair. High doses of radiation can cause permanent hair loss. Talk to your doctor about the dose you will receive to find out what to expect.
Radiation therapy can also affect your skin. The treated area may be red and appear sunburned or green. If your radiation treatment is on your head, it is best to cover your head with a protective cap or scarf as your skin will be cooler and more sensitive to sunlight. Wigs and other hairpieces can irritate your scalp.
Take care of your hair and head
Here are some ways to take care of your hair and scalp when you experience hair loss:
Wash and condition your hair every 2 to 4 days. Use baby shampoo or other mild shampoos (such as Aveeno® or Vanicream). You should also use a cream rinse or hair conditioner.
- Use sunscreen shampoos and conditioners to protect your scalp from sun damage.
- Always rinse your hair well and keep it dry with a soft towel.
- Wash your hair after swimming in the pool.
- Do not expose your scalp to the sun.
- Cover your head in summer.
In winter, cover your head with a hat, scarf, tiara, or wig. It also helps to catch hair loss.
Sleep on a satin or silk pillowcase. They are softer than other fabrics and reduce hair tangles.
Gently brush or comb your hair with a soft bristle brush or comb. Begin brushing or combing your hair at the ends and gently work your scalp. You can comb your hair with your fingers. Wet your fingers with water first.
If your hair is long, you may want to cut it short before starting treatment.
Tell your hairdresser that you are receiving chemotherapy. They can recommend delicate hair products.
Try using Bumble and Bumble పౌ hair powder to cover bald spots and areas where your hair is weakening. You can buy it online at Sephoras or from various beauty product websites.
Do not use the following on your hair during treatment as they can become too stiff or pull on your hair:
- Hairspray, hair dye, bleach, or permanent (perms)
- Clips, barrettes, hairpins, ponytail holders, or hair ties (scratches)
- Don’t put your hair in braids, braids, or ponytails.
- Hairdryers, curling irons, curling irons, or hair straighteners
- Rubber caps for bathing or swimming.