Why Hair Loss Occurs with Chemotherapy


chemotherapyCancer treatment is associated with hair loss which can be distressing for patients and their loved ones. Understanding the reasons for hair loss is helpful in empowering people to manage the problem. Here’s why hair loss happens with chemotherapy and how to manage it.

How Cancer Treatment Affects Hair

Chemotherapy is designed to attack rapidly growing cells like a cancer tumor. With some drugs this means that other cells that grow rapidly like hair are also damaged as a side effect. Hair loss tends to occur around two to four weeks after starting chemotherapy. It falls out in clumps or thins, and this can be distressing for people with cancer. As a result of chemotherapy, hair can be lost from all over the body and not just the head.

Some cancer treatments such as radiotherapy do not cause cancer loss. Newer and more targeted chemotherapy has been designed to attack cancer cells only so the risk to healthy cells is reduced. Your oncologist will recommend a course of treatment which is evidence based and has been shown to be the most effective way of treating the cancer.

Preventing Hair Loss

Some cancer patients are able to minimize hair loss by using a cool cap. This is placed on the scalp during chemotherapy and the chilled fluid reduces blood flow to the head. However, although they have been effective in most people using them, there is a small risk of cancer recurring in that area as the scalp will not have received the same treatment as the rest of the body. Patients also report headaches when using cool caps.

How to Manage Hair Loss with Chemotherapy

Knowing how to manage hair loss in a positive way is an effective way of dealing with the illness. Cutting hair off or having it removed can reduce the trauma of seeing it fall out. Planning to use a hair covering is another way to deal with the problem. Some people decide to use a wig which can be styled to suit the person, or they can experiment with an entirely different color of hair. Scarves, caps and hats are also effective at hiding the bald patches.

Hair does grow back after chemotherapy so knowing this is generally a transient phase helps people plan for and face the future.

Studies show that patients with positive outlooks and attitudes respond better to treatment. Chemotherapy wigs obviously do not treat the illness responsible for hair loss but a beautiful, natural-looking wig removes just one of the challenges you’re facing as you battle illness. To schedule a free consultation at one of Custom Hair Tampa Bay’s three locations click here.



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