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
- how sensitive you are to the drug
- your drug treatment in the past
Hair Loss After Chemotherapy: 10 Things To Know
If you need chemotherapy as a part of your cancer treatment, you might have some concerns about losing your hair. But does every chemotherapy drug cause hair loss? And is there anything you can do to prevent this possible side effect?
What are the most common causes of hair loss during cancer treatment?
Most hair loss during cancer treatment is caused by chemotherapy. Thats because chemo targets rapidly growing cells, which damages hair follicles and makes the hair fall out. But radiation therapy can sometimes cause hair loss, too, when its used to treat head and neck cancers. It depends on the area thats receiving radiation.
Do all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss?
No. Not all chemotherapy drugs have hair loss as a possible side effect. Check with your care team to find out if its a potential side effect for the drugs youll be taking.
Will every patient who receives chemotherapy lose their hair?
No. Everyone has a different response. Some people might lose all of their body hair, while others experience only mild thinning.
How soon does hair loss usually appear after cancer treatment begins?
It generally becomes noticeable after about three weeks. Head hair usually goes first, followed by hair from other areas of the body. But again, everyone responds differently, so it could be sooner or later, depending on the individual.
About Hair Loss From Treatment
Some cancer treatments may make your hair fall out completely. This may be from your head and other parts of your body. This is usually temporary. Other treatments can cause permanent hair loss in specific areas of your body. Sometimes you may not lose all your hair, but your hair can become thinner or more likely to break .
There are practical steps you can take to reduce hair loss during treatment, including scalp cooling.
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How To Stimulate Hair Growth After Chemotherapy
To improve hair growth after chemotherapy, Dr. Kapoor suggested:
- Take food items rich in vitamin and minerals. You can consult your doctor for supplements and include food items rich in Vitamin C, E and B in your diet.
- Make sure you take a protein rich diet that includes both plant and animal proteins such as meat, tofu, lentils, eggs, milk, cheese etc.
- Use essential oils such as ylang-ylang, bergamot, rosemary, lavender, that help in stimulating hair follicles. You can also massage your scalp using virgin coconut oil.
- Add whole nuts, leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, whole grains to your diet. They are rich in simple carbohydrates that help in improving hair growth and nourish the scalp cells for healthy growth.
Dr. Kapoor noted, “You can also talk to your doctor about new age hair regrowth treatments such as the QR678 hair regrowth therapy which have been clinically proven to be effective for post chemotherapy hair regrowth.”
Keep in mind that the rate of hair regrowth will depend on many factors such as your general health, age, the time of treatment, your hair health, the scalp health etc. Therefore, give it time and take good care of your hair at all times, she added.
Growing Hair After Chemo Month 8
These pictures are from month 8 of growing hair after Taxol. I had my hair highlighted again last week. The color is slowly getting blonder with each visit to the salon.
My hair is also gaining some length, which is nice! I have found that a 1 inch curling iron works best for it at this length because it grips it better than the flat iron.
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Look Good Feel Better Programs
Look Good Feel Better is dedicated to teaching cancer patients how to manage the appearance-related side-effects caused by cancer treatment. Women, men and teens can participate in a practical workshop covering skincare, make-up and headwear demonstrations, leaving them empowered and ready to face their cancer diagnosis with confidence. Workshops are available at over 180 venues around the country. Registration is essential by visiting www.lgfb.org.au or calling 1800 650 960.
Why Your Hair Falls Out
The answer is that most chemo drugs attack rapidly dividing cells and thats what your hair cells are. Your fingernails and toenails are also made up of rapidly dividing cells. Chemo can affect them as well.
Though hair loss is common during chemo and isnt just limited to your head it can affect the hair all over your body. The degree to which you experience hair loss depends on which medicine youre prescribed. Your doctor and the rest of your medical team can talk with you about what theyve noticed about hair loss associated with the particular drugs theyre prescribing.
Make sure you talk to the nurses and assistants you encounter in your chemo sessions and elsewhere during your treatment. They may have a broader perspective than your doctor has.
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When Your Hair Starts To Come Out
Focus on self-care. Wash your hair as little as possible, and use gentle products. Take care of your scalp. Wear a hat or scarf to protect it from heat and cold, and apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30 every day. And if your scalp itches or feels sensitive, go easy with your brush or comb. Avoid rollers, hair dryers, and irons. You can also style your hair with your fingers instead.
If chemo-related hair loss triggers tough emotions, be gentle with yourself. Some people going through this feel depressed, anxious, frustrated, angry, or a combination of emotions. This may be something you want to discuss in a support group or with a counselor who works with people dealing with cancer. Give yourself room to feel and work through whatever comes up.
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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Emotions During Hair Regrowth
Many women describe the time from the end of chemotherapy treatment to the spotting of the first hair growth as both an anxious and exciting time.
For most women, their new hair is proof positive that hair does grow back. Having hair again makes women feel attractive to themselves and confident that they are attractive to others. For many, hair growth confirms they are on the road to wellness that they are truly a cancer survivor.
Yet, just as hair can be the focus onto which feelings without a home get dumped, the regrowth of hair is sometimes a focus for worries and concerns. When treatment is finished women are excited, but frequently experience a letdown. After being monitored so closely by healthcare professionals, it can be very disconcerting when visits are less frequent. Thoughts of the future also enter more clearly, as less energy is invested in dealing with day-to-day treatment. The fear of recurrence no matter the stage of fairly universal.
Sometimes these fears and concerns are expressed as being hair related. For example, a woman may express frustration with her new chemo curls or the new color of her hair, when actually she is really anxious about whether the cancer may return.
Hair Regrowth Stages Of Hair Growth After Chemo
Hair regrowth after chemo happens a couple weeks after the end of your chemotherapy treatment. The following hair regrowth stages of hair growth after chemo take place:
- 3-4 weeks after chemo: fuzzy hair begins to form.
- 5 weeks post chemo hair growth: new hairs become more visible.
- Hair growth 6 weeks after chemo: the new hair become thicker.
- 2-3 months of hair growth after chemo: an inch of hair may have grown.
- 3-6 months of hair regrowth after chemo: some 2-3 inches of hair may have grown, covering bald patches formed by hair loss from chemo.
- 12 months of hair growth after chemo: the hair may have grown 4-6 inches and is long enough to brush of style.
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Preparing For Changes To Your Hair
Many people say that the possibility of losing their hair is one of their biggest worries about having treatment. Understandably, the thought of it can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety.
Hair loss can be an important part of self-identify, so unwanted changes to it can significantly affect self-esteem and confidence. Its a visible side effect of treatment, and can make it obvious to other people that youre having treatment, including those you might not have chosen to tell. This loss of control and privacy can be very challenging to cope with.
Prepare yourself mentally keep in mind that youll come across people you know who dont recognise you anymore. I lost the hair on my head, as well as my eyelashes and eyebrows, which made me look very different. I found that tough to cope with, but I did get used to it after about a month, and my hair grew back very quickly. People did look but I just assumed that they were good-natured people and probably guessed that I was having chemotherapy and hoped that I was recovering OK.
Speak to your medical team for advice specific to your situation if your hair is likely to be affected, you might want to ask where from and how quickly you could expect it to grow back. Getting an idea of what to expect can help you to prepare for changes to your hair and give you time to consider what approach you might like to take.
Hormonal And Targeted Therapies
Some people notice that their hair becomes thinner while taking a hormonal therapy or targeted therapy. This is usually mild and the hair grows back at the end of treatment. If you have a beard, you may notice that you have less beard growth.
You may notice that the hair on your head and body is finer, curlier or more brittle. Each therapy has different possible side effects.
Any hair loss from hormonal or targeted therapies nearly always grows back once you have finished treatment. Your doctor can advise you about the type of drug you are taking.
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Before Chemotherapy Hair Loss
I had such a hard time finding a decent photo of myself to show my hair before cancer. Like most moms I always seem to be the one taking the picture, so Im never actually in the photo!
I finally found this one so you can see the color and style I had before chemotherapy. This was taken at Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville in 2018 .
Right after my diagnosis, my doctor scheduled a bilateral mastectomy that included breast reconstruction with tissue expanders.
After learning that I would need chemo, I had my hairdresser cut my hair into a short bob to prepare for losing it. This photo was taken at my first chemo session.
A couple weeks after this AC chemo treatment, I ended up shaving off my hair. It started itching and almost even stinging, which felt really annoying. My scalp also started hurting.
It felt like when you wear a tight ponytail all day long and then take it down at the end of the day. It was just kind of a sore, uncomfortable feeling.
So one day I called my husband at work, told him I couldnt take it anymore, and shaved it all off. I felt like such a weight had been lifted off my shoulders once I accepted the inevitable and got rid of my hair.
Dont get me wrong, I sobbed as I did it but, once it was done I didnt feel terrified of it any longer. As emotional as the act of shaving it off was, it was sort of comical too.
Try Hair Regrowth Treatment
Some drugs encourage hair regrowth after chemotherapy, but the results vary. Most hair regrowth drugs aim to treat hair loss resulting from causes other than chemotherapy.
Some research has suggested that minoxidil might speed up hair regrowth or reduce hair loss during chemotherapy.
Doctors may, for example, recommend Rogaine for people who have had tamoxifen therapy for breast cancer. However, it can be messy and expensive. Pharmacies usually offer other forms of minoxidil that are cheaper.
A person should discuss the risks and benefits of hair regrowth treatments with their doctor before using them.
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Help With The Cost Of Wigs
You might be eligible to receive a synthetic wig free of charge.
If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, synthetic wigs are available free of charge.
If you live in England, synthetic wigs are available for free on the NHS if you meet certain eligibility criteria. These include:
- being on a low income
- receiving certain financial support.
You can find out more about wigs and help with the costs on the NHS website. If you dont meet the criteria for a free wig, you might still be able to get a subsidised wig from your hospital. Ask your clinical nurse specialist or another member of your medical team for details.
If you buy a wig privately, you dont need to pay value added tax . This applies to anyone who has lost their hair because of cancer. Ask the company for a VAT exemption form when you buy the wig you cant claim it back at a later date.
You can find out more about wigs, including getting one through your health service or the NHS, on Cancer Research UKs website.
For children and young people up to the age of 24, Little Princess Trust provides real hair wigs to those who have lost their hair due to cancer treatment or other conditions.
How Does Chemotherapy Cause Side Effects
Chemotherapy is a systemic medication. As it travels through the bloodstream, it reaches every part of the body. It is a form of cancer treatment that can cause hair loss. This is because it can damage the hair follicles and cause them to shrink. The hair may fall out in large clumps or be lost in small patches. Some people experience permanent hair loss after chemotherapy treatment.
Chemo may cause hair loss all over your body not just on your scalp. Sometimes your eyelashes, eyebrows, armpit, pubic and other body hair also fall out. Some chemotherapy drugs are more likely to cause hair loss, and different doses can cause anything from mere thinning to complete baldness.
This blog contains a first-hand interview with a breast cancer survivor of 20 years.
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How Long Does Hair Fall Last
Hair loss usually begins two to four months after the incident that caused the condition and lasts around six months. New hairs begin to develop soon after a hair falls out, although considerable growth may not be seen for several months. Hair that is not caught before it drops will stay off the scalp for several weeks or months before falling out.
On average, men lose about 100 strands per day. Women can lose as much as 30-50 strands each day. Strands that are not lost due to natural processes such as aging or disease development call for action. There are many factors that can cause individuals to lose their hair, with some causes being medical problems, medications, stress, and more.
Hair falls out because of how our bodies work. When we experience an event that causes pain or injury to the head, the first thing that happens is that blood flows into the area to protect other parts of the body. This results in new cells forming inside the scalp where they remain until they reach the end of their lifespan, which is usually about 110 years for women and 120 years for men. As these cells die they release pigment that gives your hairits color. Over time this process leaves your hair thinning or bald on top. However, the bottom line is that hair falls out because of how our bodies work there is no need for alarm unless you cannot explain the reason for your hairs absence.