Hair Loss and Chemotherapy

Undergoing chemotherapy is stressful and difficult for many reasons. Although hair loss certainly isn’t at the top of that list of reasons, it can be more stressful than people expect it to be, and it is often one of the side effects that chemotherapy patients feel nervous about.

Chemotherapy doesn’t always cause you to lose your hair – that usually depends on the type and dose of the treatment you need. However, when it does happen, the way you deal with it is important. The support of your friends and family can help a lot and can help you to maintain your body image and keep your confidence high.

Hair loss occurs with chemotherapy because chemo attacks rapidly growing cancer cells. The problem is that cancer cells aren’t the only rapidly-growing cells in your body. Your hair roots also include these cells (remember how you have to shave every day?) and sometimes they get caught in the fall-out.

Fortunately, this problem doesn’t last forever. 3 to 10 months after your treatment has ended, your hair will grow back. It may take a few weeks for your hair to begin growing again, and sometimes it will start out a different color or texture. Eventually, it should get back to normal. Don’t panic if it begins growing back gray and wasn’t before – sometimes the cells that control pigment take longer to recover.

There are a few options that can help to prevent hair loss, although none of them are completely effective. One method if to pack your scalp in ice, slowing the flow of blood to the head and sometimes preventing the hair from getting the full force of the treatment. This can help prevent loss, but can also cause cancer to come back in the scalp because it didn’t get the full force of the treatment.

Using Rogaine won’t prevent it entirely, but it can help the regrowth process to happen more quickly. Research is still going on to discover how well this works.

One of the best things you can do is to plan ahead – buy wigs or scarves now, consider cutting your hair to make the hair loss less noticeable. Be gentle to your hair before, during and after the treatment so that it has the maximum opportunity to grow back healthy and strong.