Three Months After Chemo: What Happens After Chemo Is Finished
Hello Friends! Its been three months-ish since my last chemotherapy treatment, and I wanted to drop in and let you know how Im doing since a lot of you have asked.
After my final cycle of chemo, I was officially declared in remission with no evidence of disease . Great, right?!?
I had no idea how Id end up feeling post-chemotherapy.
Radiotherapy And Hair Loss
Radiotherapy affects hair in the area of the body that receives treatment. This is a common side effect of radiotherapy treatment and usually starts around 2 to 3 weeks after you first have a treatment session.
Radiotherapy damages lymphoma cells to stop them from dividing. However, it also damages healthy cells. Unlike lymphoma cells, healthy cells are able to recover. Cells that grow at a fast rate are more sensitive to these effects. Radiotherapy can therefore stop you from making new hair.
At lower doses of radiotherapy, hair loss is usually temporary. With higher doses, it might be permanent. The speed of hair re-growth depends on the type of radiotherapy, the number of treatments youve had and the area of the body treated.
Hair usually starts to grow back after around 3 to 6 months of treatment.
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 My Hair Fall Out All At Once
Not everyone who has treatment for lymphoma experiences hair loss. If you do, your hair usually begins to fall out within a couple of weeks of starting treatment. It usually starts at the top and sides of your head, above your ears. It might fall out gradually, in clumps, or quite quickly. You might notice hair on your pillow or clothes, in your hairbrush, or in the plug hole of your bath or shower. Speak to your medical team for information about what to expect based on the treatment you are having.
/ 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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What Causes Hair Loss In Cancer Patients
Chemotherapy targets cancer cells that divide rapidly. But some healthy cells in the body also divide rapidly, like those lining the mouth and stomach, and in the hair follicles. When cancer treatments, especially certain chemotherapy drugs, damage the healthy, fast-growing cells responsible for hair growth, alopecia may result. Radiation therapy may also cause hair loss in the specific area of the body being treated.
Although hair loss does not always happen right away, it usually begins within two weeks of starting chemotherapy treatment and progresses over the following two months. Hair loss in the area being treated with radiation treatment usually begins up to three weeks after the first treatment. Hair loss may continue throughout treatment and up to a few weeks afterward.
Hair loss may occur on the head and/or elsewhere on the body, including the face , hair on the arms, underarms and legs, and pubic hair.
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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Caring For Virgin Hair And The Changes And Emotions You Might Expect
Virgin hair is a term sometimes applied to hair that grows in after chemotherapy. Many women are surprised to find that the color of their hair changes, the waviness goes from straight to curly or vice versa, or has a different texture than before. This holds true not only for hair on the head but for eyelashes, eyebrows, and pubic hair. In time, the color and texture of your hair will likely return to its pre-chemo state , but until then, special care is required. Let’s take a look at what you can expect not only with your hair, but your emotions during hair loss and regrowth.
Can Chemotherapy Hair Loss Be Treated
Chemotherapy is a life saving medication but it can wreak havoc on your body. Chemo patients experience a wide range of side effects, but one of the most obvious is hair loss.
Chemotherapy-related hair loss also known as chemotherapy-induced alopecia affects hair all over the body, including your scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, facial hair, armpit hair, and pubic hair. So as well as being highly noticeable, its also distressing for many cancer patients.
So what can you do about hair loss after chemo? In this article, youll learn:
- why chemotherapy causes hair loss
- how to stimulate hair growth after chemotherapy
- whether you can have a hair transplant after chemotherapy.
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On The Hunt For New Drug Targets
Very little is known about how chemotherapy drugs cause CIA. Most information stems from studies using mouse models.
Here, research has shown that programmed cell suicide, or apoptosis, is the most likely cause of cell death in the hair follicle, causing the hair to fall out.
Researchers in the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago, IL, used genome-wide association studies to compare the genetic signature of breast cancer patients who had experienced CIA with that of those who had not.
They found several candidate genes that might be implicated in the loss of functional hair follicles. One of these, CACNB4, is part of a calcium channel that plays an important role in cell growth and apoptosis. Another gene, BCL9, was active in a subset of CIA patients and is known to play a role in hair follicle development.
Armed with this knowledge, scientists are continuing their quest to develop effective inhibitors of chemotherapy-induced hair loss, hoping to reduce the burden that this unwanted side effect has on cancer patients.
Does Wearing A Wig Slow Down New Hair Growth
Generally speaking wearing a wig does not delay or prevent new hair from growing. The only exception to this is in the case of a silicon or suction type of wig that requires the scalp to be completely free of hair to ensure a secure fit.
People often worry that wearing a wig will delay growth but this is not true and there is no evidence to support this. Following chemotherapy treatment most people do say that their hair grows slower at first, and then returns to a more regular speed of growth once the Hair Growth Cycle has recovered. This is normal and to be expected.
You may need some tips about how to prevent your wig from slipping when wearing over new hair growth. We have lots of tips and ideas in our Wig guide Getting a good fit.
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How To Prepare For Hair Loss
- Each person is different. Ask your health care team if hair loss is likely to happen. If it is, ask if it will happen quickly or gradually.
- If you are going to get chemotherapy that might cause hair loss, talk to your health care team about whether a cooling cap might help reduce your risk. More research is being done to understand how effective and safe cooling caps may be. There are some side effects of cooling caps to consider, such as headaches, scalp pain, and neck and shoulder discomfort. Talk to your health care team about the benefits, limitations, and side effects of cooling caps.
- If the thought of losing your hair bothers you, you might choose to cut your hair very short or even shave your head before it starts falling out.
- If you think you might want a wig, buy it before treatment begins or at the very start of treatment. Ask if the wig can be adjusted you might need a smaller wig as you lose hair. To match hair color, you can cut a swatch of hair from the top front of your head, where hair is lightest.
- Wigs and other scalp coverings may be partially or fully covered by your health insurance. If so, ask for a prescription for a cranial prosthesis. Do not use the word wig on the prescription.
- Get a list of wig shops in your area from your cancer team, other patients, or from the phone book. You can also order the American Cancer Societys tlc Tender Loving Care® catalog by visiting tlc or by calling 1-800-850-9445.
How You May Feel
Hair loss is a visible side effect of treatment and can change how you view yourself.
For many of us, the way we feel about ourselves is closely linked to the way we look, and losing your hair can be devastating. You may feel anxious at the thought of losing your hair, or angry and unhappy that this has happened in addition to your cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Hair loss may also make you feel vulnerable and exposed. You may see it as a constant reminder of your treatment, labelling you as a cancer patient or feel that hair loss has prevented you keeping your diagnosis private.
Some people feel guilty about being upset when they lose their hair as they feel there are other, more important things to worry about.
Theres no right or wrong way to feel and whether you lose some or all of your hair, the experience can be very distressing.
Some people describe hair loss as the most difficult side effect to deal with. Others find that losing their hair isnt as upsetting as they thought it would be. While some people adjust quickly to hair loss, others find that it takes longer, or is more difficult to accept and adapt to than they imagined.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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/ Does Hair Loss After Chemo Hurt
Some people feel pain when their hair starts to fall out. This is often called scalp pain. But others only experience itching or an odd, tickly feeling. It generally only lasts a few days or weeks and experiences vary from person to person. A soothing scalp mist may help to soothe, moisturise and nourish your sensitive scalp.
When Will I Begin To Lose My Hair
You may start to see your hair thin or fall out 1 to 4 weeks after your first chemotherapy treatment and 4 weeks after you receive radiation therapy.
The amount of hair that falls out or thins depends on the type, dose, and timing of your treatments. The speed at which it falls out also varies from person to person. You may first notice hair on your pillow in the morning or see it when you shower or brush your hair.
Some people will experience hair thinning rather than hair loss. Hair thinning is when your hair feels and looks thinner in texture. Talk with your healthcare team about what to expect after your chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
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/ When Will My Hair Start To Grow Back After Chemotherapy
Your hair will start to grow back after your chemotherapy treatment. Some people will notice immediate growth, and in other cases it might take a month or two. But it is equally possible for your hair to start growing back during your treatment. This usually happens just before or during your last chemo treatment. Its also worth remembering that it is a myth that wearing a wig, hats or scarves after chemo prevents your hair from growing back. Your hair will grow back just as quickly with or without headwear. Its up to you to decide when you feel your new hair is long enough to start walking around without a wig or a headscarf.
How To Deal With Cancer
When you’re struggling with cancer, treatments and the challenges that come with a diagnosis, it may be difficult to adjust to hair loss and other changes to your body and appearance. But there are ways to prepare for and deal with hair loss when it occurs. Here are 12 ways to help cope with cancer-related hair loss:
Give yourself time. Losing your hair may be difficult to accept. It may take time to adjust to how you look, then more time to feel good about yourself again. Its okay to feel upset. At the same time, understand that losing your hair is usually temporary and hair will re-grow after you complete treatment.
Remember youre still you. Losing your hair and experiencing other physical changes brought on by cancer and its treatment may come as a shock. It may be disorienting to look in the mirror and not recognize yourself. Remember that youre still the same person on the inside. Try to celebrate who you are and focus on those qualities.
Prepare ahead for hair changes. Before you begin cancer treatment, prepare in advance for changes to your hair. Talk to your doctor about what to expect. Meet with a stylist who is familiar with cancer-related hair loss. Some people choose to wear head coverings, and others dont. Choose whatever feels most comfortable for you. It also helps to think about how you will respond to reactions from others.
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