If your doctor has recommended chemotherapy to treat cancer or a different illness, you may worry about losing your hair. Hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy treatment that can make patients feel self-conscious. Learning more about chemotherapy and hair loss may help you overcome negative feelings. You can also learn about ways to prepare for potential hair loss.
How Chemotherapy Causes Hair Loss
Chemotherapy treats cancer by targeting cells that are splitting. Cancer cells grow much more rapidly than healthy cells, so the chemicals do a good job of killing cancer without harming other cells in your body.
Hair follicles, cells responsible for growing your hair, however, divide every 23 to 72 hours. To chemotherapy drugs, the hair follicles look the same as cancer. Since chemotherapy can’t tell the difference between cancer and hair cells, it attacks both. As a result, you may find that you lose your hair all at once or that your hair thins throughout your chemo treatments.
Preparing for the Emotional Effects of Chemotherapy and Hair Loss
More than half of patients undergoing chemotherapy lose hair. Since so many people experience hair loss or thinning hair, it makes sense to prepare for the emotional effects.
Cut Your Hair Before Chemotherapy
Some people prepare by cutting their hair short before taking chemotherapy drugs. Going from extremely short hair to no hair may feel less jarring than losing long hair.
Choose a Head Covering
Chemotherapy patients may choose to cover their heads. A headwrap, for example, provides warmth while covering your scalp.
Wigs can also help you feel more confident during your treatment.
The American Cancer Society recommends checking your insurance policy to see whether it will help pay for your head covering. You may need a doctor’s prescription for a “hair prosthesis” or “cranial prosthesis” before your insurance company chips in.
Use a Cooling Cap to Minimize Hair Loss
Many people believe that cooling caps can minimize hair loss by constricting blood vessels in your scalp, which might decrease the amount of chemotherapy drugs that reach your hair follicles. There’s contradictory evidence about whether cooling caps work, but they might prevent or slow your hair loss.
Chemotherapy saves lives, but can also cause a lot of physical and emotional stress. Talk to your doctor to learn more about managing the side-effects of chemotherapy.
At Custom Hair Tampa Bay, our high-quality medical wigs allow patients to retain a semblance of normality. To schedule a free consultation click here.
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