How To Prevent And Manage Hair Loss
If youre receiving treatment for breast cancer that can cause hair loss, its important to know you have options. Below, you can learn about ways to prevent and manage hair loss as a side effect of breast cancer treatments.
If chemotherapy medicines that will cause hair loss are part of your breast cancer treatment plan, there are steps you can take to prepare, possibly lessen hair loss, and protect your hair as it grows back. Learn more about Managing Hair Loss From Chemotherapy, including tips for hair loss on your head, eyebrows, and eyelashes.
Cold caps and scalp cooling systems are tightly fitting hat-like devices filled with a cold gel or liquid coolant. Cold caps and scalp cooling systems have helped many people keep some or quite a bit of their hair during chemotherapy. Learn more about Cold Caps and Scalp Cooling Systems
Many people find that wearing a wig is a good solution for them if they experience hair loss from breast cancer treatment. A wig can provide a sense of normalcy, consistency, and privacy during cancer treatment. Experimenting with different wig styles and colors can also be quite fun! Not sure if a wig is right for you or where to begin looking for one? Read more about wigs to learn about where to buy a wig or get one for free, how to choose one that suits you, how to care for a wig, and more.
Will I Lose My Hair During Breast Cancer Treatment
Many people will lose either some or all of their hair as a result of treatment for breast cancer.
People who have often experience hair loss. Some may cause hair loss or thinning.
If theres a chance that you will lose your hair, your treatment team will talk to you before treatment starts about what might happen.
This should also include information about any risk of that could happen as a result of the treatment.
As well as talking about practical issues such as caring for your scalp or wearing a wig, you can also discuss your feelings about losing your hair and what support might be available to help you adjust to it.
For some people, losing their hair is the most distressing side effect of treatment.
Find out more about coping with hair loss.
/ How Do I Care For My Hair During My Chemotherapy
During chemo we recommend gentle care for your hair. Dont wash it too often and always use a gentle, mild shampoo. If you need to use a hair dryer, make sure you always use the lowest temperature setting. Try not to let your hair dry out due to sun exposure, colour treatments or perms. Hard brushes and curlers are definitely to be avoided as well.
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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.
The Look Good Feel Better Program
The Look Good Feel Better program is designed to help people cope with the effects that cancer treatment can have on their appearance. During weekly sessions, makeup artists teach makeup techniques, skin and nail care, and hair styling and head-covering options. To register for a class, call Look Good Feel Better at 800-395-LOOK or visit www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org.
Men can find information at www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org/programs/men.
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A Variety Of Head Coverings Are Available
If you feel self-conscious about hair loss, wearing a head covering might help. From scarves to hats to wigs, there are many options. These coverings can also protect your head from exposure to sunlight and cold air.
If you think you might want a wig that matches your natural hair color, consider buying it before you begin chemotherapy. This may help the wig shop better match the color and texture of your hair. Try on different styles until you find one you like.
Tips For Coping With Cancer
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Some of the most difficult side effects of cancer treatments may not cause physical pain. They may not cause fatigue or digestive issues. And they may only be temporary. But for some cancer patients, hair loss may be one of the most distressing side effects of cancer treatment.
Hair loss, or alopecia, may make you feel vulnerable, self-conscious and exposed as a cancer patient. Hair loss is also a tangible sign that your life has changed, which may trigger feelings of anger and depression. And you may be faced with questions from others that you arent prepared to deal with yet.
For some, the threat of hair loss may intensify the lack of control you may feel after a cancer diagnosis. But it also presents an opportunity to emotionally prepare for losing your hair and take steps to deal with it before it happens. It helps to understand why hair falls out and how to handle it if it occurs.
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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.
Targeted Therapy And Immunotherapy And Hair Loss
Some targeted therapies that are used to treat breast cancer can cause changes to the texture and color of your hair, or hair loss that is usually mild. These include:
If you experience some hair loss, it is likely to start soon after you start taking the targeted therapy. Your hair probably wont start growing back until several months after you stop taking the medicine. Taking an aromatase inhibitor and certain targeted therapies at the same time increases the risk that youll develop hair loss.
Immunotherapy generally doesnt cause hair loss, but hair loss has occurred in a small percentage of the people who take the immunotherapy Tecentriq .
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What Else Contributes To Hair Loss
There are a number of non-cancer-related medications that are also associated with hair loss. These might accentuate the effects of chemotherapy drugs if used alongside them.
Some of these include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- Antidepressants like tricyclic antidepressants and Wellbutrin
In addition to medications, illness, surgery, or dietary changes may lead to hair loss.
Thyroid disease may cause hair loss and may occur as a result of cancer treatment .
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
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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 use hormonal therapies 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, more commonly 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.
Hair Loss And Cancer Treatment
If treatment will cause hair loss, try wearing fun scarves and earringsor a cap, from time to time.
Some types of chemotherapy cause the hair on your head and other parts of your body to fall out. Radiation therapy can also cause hair loss on the part of the body that is being treated. Hair loss is called alopecia. Talk with your health care team to learn if the cancer treatment you will be receiving causes hair loss. Your doctor or nurse will share strategies that have help others, including those listed below.
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Be Gentle To Your Hair
Be gentle to yourself generally, especially during this period of your life. Treat your hair gently by following a couple of simple advice, like washing it with a mild shampoo, avoiding excessive combing, staying away from curlers, fans, and other heat sources, using a brush with sparse teeth, avoiding aggressive hairstyles.
Radiation Treatment And Hair Loss
Radiation therapy uses a high-energy beam to damage quickly growing cells in your body. The goal is to target cancer cells, but some normal cells get damaged as well.
Radiation only causes hair loss on the particular part of the body treated. If radiation is used to treat the breast, there is no hair loss on your head. But there might be loss of hair around the nipple, if you have hair there.
Radiation to the brain, used to treat breast cancer that has spread to the brain, can cause hair loss on your head. Depending on the dose of radiation, your hair may be patchier when it grows back or it may not grow back.
/ When Will My Hair Start To Fall Out
Generally hair loss sets in 2 to 3 weeks after the first course of chemotherapy. Some people lose their hair gradually, while others immediately start to lose hair in large quantities. By their second course of chemotherapy, most people are already wearing a wig, scarf or hat. Tip! Dont wait until your hair starts to fall out to find some chemotherapy headwear. It is a good idea to look for a wig or chemo scarves and hats before starting your chemo. Go to specialised hairdresser for a wig. You can buy chemo scarves, hats and headscarves in specialised shops, such as our Rosette la Vedette online store. Online shopping is easy because you can shop from the comfort of your own home. And during your chemo treatments you can easily order additional chemo hats and scarves in your favourite colours from your easy chair.
Eyebrows Eyelashes And Make
With some chemotherapies, people might also lose their eyebrows and eyelashes. Make-up, eyebrow pencil, eyeliner or false eyelashes can help, and many cancer support groups have workshops to help patients learn these techniques.
For example, the charity Look Good Feel Better holds free skincare and make-up workshops and masterclasses across the UK for women undergoing treatment for cancer.
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Emotional Support During Hair Loss
Our hair can be an important part of our appearance and identity. It may be a way we express our personality. Often, when our hair looks good, we feel good. For some, losing their hair is one of the hardest parts of having treatment. For others, it is not as bad as they expected.
You may feel low in confidence, anxious or depressed. You may feel angry that the hair loss is a visible reminder of the cancer for you and for others. It may feel like you have to tell people about your cancer diagnosis when you dont want to.
All these different feelings are completely normal. Our information about the emotional effects of cancer suggests different ways to manage difficult feelings.
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:
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Why Chemotherapy Causes Hair Loss
Chemotherapy drugs are designed to kill rapidly growing cells. Some cells, such as those in our hair follicles, divide rapidly and are affected by chemotherapy as well.
Hair loss does not occur with all chemotherapy medications and people may have different responses, even with the same medications. You may experience complete hair loss or hair thinning, but you also may not notice any hair loss at all.
Looking After Your Hair During Breast Cancer Treatment
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.
Hair care tips
The following tips may be helpful for all hair types:
- Use a mild, unperfumed shampoo and conditioner
- Try not to wash your hair more than twice a week or less than once every ten days
- 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
- Massage the scalp to improve the blood supply to the hair follicles
Things to avoid
You may want to avoid the following to help protect your hair:
- Overly tight plaits or braids as they may cause tension and this may damage your hair
- Using elastic bands to tie back hair
- Hair colours and dyes, perms, relaxers and other products containing strong chemicals
- Products containing alcohol, such as hairspray, which can irritate the scalp
- Excessive heat from hair straighteners, hairdryers, hot brushes and heated rollers
- Hair extensions, weaves and braids as these can weaken the hair
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/ Why Doesnt Every Chemo Patient Lose His Or Her Hair
Chemotherapy uses a specific mix of cancer drugs. The mix you will receive depends on the type of cancer you have. Some drugs cause hair loss, others cause little to no hair loss whatsoever. Some chemo treatments do not make peoples hair fall out but it does become thinner or duller. Your doctor is the best person to inform you about how much hair loss you can expect.