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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/ Will My Head Get Cold More Quickly Without Hair
Everyone who has had chemotherapy knows that a bald head cools off faster. You dont just wear a wig or hats and scarves after chemo to conceal your hair loss, but also to keep your head warm. At night especially, you might feel cold, especially during the autumn and winter months. So consider wearing a nightcap and choose a model in a breathable fabric without irritating elastic or rough stitches. Chemo can make your scalp dry and sensitive and even the slightest friction can cause irritation.
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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/ Is It Only The Hair On My Head That I Will Lose
Besides the hair on your head, you can also lose the rest of your body hair, i.e., the hair on your arms and legs, your eyebrows, eyelashes, armpit and pubic hair. Again, this depends on the type of chemotherapy and it can also vary from person to person.
What Happens To White Blood Cells When You Take Cytarabine
Cytarabine can temporarily lower the number of white blood cells in your blood, increasing the chance of getting an infection. It can also lower the number of platelets, which are necessary for proper blood clotting.
How many drugs are associated with hair loss?
Hair loss is found to be associated with 3,386 drugs and 2,874 conditions by eHealthMe. Time on Cytarabine when people have Hair loss *:
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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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Other Hair Loss Symptoms
Hair may fall out in clumps or seem like it is thinning as you lose a few strands at a time from all over your scalp. Depending on the type of chemotherapy used, you could lose the hair on your head only, or also on all parts of your body, including the eyelashes and eyebrows, arm, legs, underarms, and pubic area.
Other symptoms you may experience include:
- Scalp itching, tenderness, or dryness
- Scalp sensitivity
- Increased skin sensitivity to the sun
- Red or darkened skin or other pigment changes
- Remaining hair may be dull or dry
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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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How To Deal With Cancer
When youre 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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Common Questions About Hair Loss And Cancer
Will chemo make me lose my hair? It depends. Hair loss is very common with certain chemo medicines. However, chemo does not always cause hair loss. Some patients may not lose their hair. Others may have thinning hair. With some chemotherapy, hair loss is complete and includes eyebrows, eyelashes, and body hair. The specific type of chemo and the dose you receive will determine the risk of hair loss and how it occurs.
When will my hair fall out after chemo? Usually, hair begins to fall out 2-3 weeks after starting chemo. Hair loss may be seen sooner or later, depending on the chemo schedule.
Will my hair grow back after chemo? Hair loss after chemo is usually temporary. But it might take a while to regrow hair after treatment ends. Most patients see hair growth 2-3 months after chemo is complete. New hair may appear more like peach fuzz and then will fill in as the hair growth cycle returns to normal. It can take 6-12 months before hair reaches full thickness. Parents may need to explain to children who had long hair that growing out the length can take a very long time. On average, hair grows about 6 inches per year.
Will I lose my hair after radiation? Hair loss after radiation therapy is generally limited to the parts of the body that receive treatment. Patients who have radiation to parts of the body other than the head will not lose the hair on their head unless they also receive chemo or other medicines that cause hair loss.
Hair Loss From Chemo: What To Expect
Read time: 2 minutes
Hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy targets cells that divide and grow quicklya feature of cancer cells. Chemo affects hair cells because they also divide and grow quickly.
Though hair can fall out from this treatment, its important to remember that it does grow back in most cases. These frequently asked questions tell you more about what to expect.
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How Soon Can I Colour My Hair After It Grows Back
Its best to wait until your hair is longer and your hair and scalp are in good condition before applying permanent hair colour.
Although there is limited research in this area, Cancer Hair Care recommends you allow at least an inch of hair to grow before colouring it, so you can be sure the hair is of a good quality.
For some people this may be six months to a year, for others it will be sooner.
You can talk to your hairdresser about when to begin colouring your hair. Before you have a permanent hair dye applied your hairdresser should check how your scalp and hair may react by doing a skin-sensitivity test . They may recommend henna or vegetable-based dyes as these tend to be gentler on the hair and scalp.
Temporary or semi-permanent dyes are a good way to find out if a hair colour suits you before you try a permanent colour.
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Ways To Manage Hair Loss
Talk with your health care team about ways to manage before and after hair loss:
- Treat your hair gently. You may want to use a hairbrush with soft bristles or a wide-tooth comb. Do not use hair dryers, irons, or products such as gels or clips that may hurt your scalp. Wash your hair with a mild shampoo. Wash it less often and be very gentle. Pat it dry with a soft towel.
- You have choices. Some people choose to cut their hair short to make it easier to deal with when it starts to fall out. Others choose to shave their head. If you choose to shave your head, use an electric shaver so you wont cut yourself. If you plan to buy a wig, get one while you still have hair so you can match it to the color of your hair. If you find wigs to be itchy and hot, try wearing a comfortable scarf or turban.
- Protect and care for your scalp. Use sunscreen or wear a hat when you are outside. Choose a comfortable scarf or hat that you enjoy and that keeps your head warm. If your scalp itches or feels tender, using lotions and conditioners can help it feel better.
- Talk about your feelings. Many people feel angry, depressed, or embarrassed about hair loss. It can help to share these feelings with someone who understands. Some people find it helpful to talk with other people who have lost their hair during cancer treatment. Talking openly and honestly with your children and close family members can also help you all. Tell them that you expect to lose your hair during treatment.
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Hair Loss After Radiation Therapy
Patients receiving radiation therapy usually have hair loss in the area of treatment. The amount of hair loss after radiation depends on the size of the area treated and the dose of radiation. Some patients will have complete hair loss in the area, while other patients may have thinning of the hair. Hair loss due to radiation can sometimes be permanent, especially if high doses of radiation were used. Hair that grows back may not be as thick or may be a different texture. Hair usually grows back 3-6 months after radiation treatment ends.
What Are My Options
There are many ways to cover up hair loss. Hats, scarves and turbans are popular options for men and women.
- hats there are many styles to choose from
- scarves versatile with many colour and fabric options, lightweight materials such as cotton are best
- turbans easy to wear and widely available
- wigs you can continue with a familiar style or try something new
Some hats, headbands or bandanas have optional fringe or hair attachments. If you still have some hair, changing your hairstyle can help cover up hair loss. Specialist hairdressers like mynewhair can offer advice.
In certain situations surgery to replace hair might be an option if your hair loss is permanent. This treatment is not available through the NHS.
You may not want to wear anything on your head. Accessories, clothing and makeup can express your style and draw attention away from hair loss.
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Is There A Cure For Chemotherapy
Many of us come to identify strongly with our own outward appearance. Its only natural to see ourselves as others see us. Inundated by advertisements that stress a youthful, healthy appearance, many women come to see their own hair, and how they choose to style their hair, as a direct embodiment of personal identity. Losing that symbol of identity can be devastating, and surprisingly so, for many chemotherapy patients.
Potential cures for chemo-induced hair loss, however, are in no short supply. But do any of them actually work?
Where hair loss is concerned, most research has focused on camouflage methods, like wearing wigs and scarves, and the potential psycho-social benefits associated with their use. Unfortunately, scientists havent spent much time looking into the efficacy of potential treatment methods, and even less time trying to develop innovative new techniques.
Of the two methods youll see referenced most often, scalp cooling and minoxidil, scalp cooling is supported by the most robust medical evidence. Research on minoxidil, on the other hand, the active ingredient in Rogaine, is mainly limited to patients with forms of alopecia not caused by chemotherapy.
When Will Your Hair Grow Back
The time it takes for noticeable hair regrowth after chemo varies from person-to-person. That being said, generally you will begin to notice your hair growing back after two to three weeks, albeit only slightly. After around a month or so your hair should begin to grow naturally at a normal rate, and after around two months post-chemo, you hair will be around an inch in length. It is important to note that hair in other areas that may have fallen out, such as the eye lashed, may take longer to grow back than hair on the head.
For Whole Brain Radiation
If you underwent whole brain radiation and lost your hair as a result then you will likely experience a longer time waiting before noticing any hair growth. This type of treatment is more damaging to the hair follicles than chemotherapy, meaning it can take up to six months before even an inch of hair grows. The new hair may also be thinner, and there is a chance of a bald spot appearing.
The effect of Tamoxifen on the hair will last as long as the drug is administered, which can sometimes be for five year durations. That being said, it is possible for the thinning of the hair caused by this medication to subside a year into the treatment.
The video below shows the week-by-week progress of hair growth after chemotherapy:
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Does Wearing A Wig Prevent Hair Growth After Chemo
It makes sense to worry that keeping your hair cooped up under a wig for weeks or months might stop it from growing, but rest assured: Wearing a wig wont discourage hair growth.
In fact, wearing a wig is often recommended for people who want to maintain the look of a full head of hair or hide the patchy spots left by inconsistent hair loss. Some people can even get the cost of their wig covered by their health insurance.
So if wearing a wig, hat, turban, scarf, or any other head covering helps you feel better while you wait for new hair to come in, go ahead and wear it. Your hair will keep on growing either way, so you might as well do what makes you feel most comfortable.
Can I Remove My Eyebrows And Eyelashes Before They Fall Out
We dont advise completely removing your eyebrows unless there is a specific reason to do so. This is because the hairs that create your eyebrow may not fall out. If you are having semi-permanent make up and need to remove hair your technician will advise you.
However, if you are someone who normally shapes their brow using a clipper, tweezing or having your eyebrows threaded then that will not normally affect how the new brows grow back. You can carry on with your normal regime if you wish.
Some people, when they lost just half of their eyebrow, decided to remove the remaining hairs as it looked strange to have half a brow. We will give you lots of tips in our make-up section of how to re-create eyebrows.
We never recommend using a razor to completely shave the brow as the eyebrow area is very sensitive and any cuts may cause a problem.
We dont advise removing eyelashes other than gently easing out a hair that is already falling. The eye area is very sensitive and it could cause infection and problems to remove the eyelashes before they fall.
It is okay to gently ease out a lash when you feel it is falling out, for example, when taking off eye make-up.
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