Hair loss or hair fall is a common side effect of chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy drugs attack rapidly dividing cancer cells, but they also affect other rapidly dividing cells in the body, including hair follicles. As a result, many people undergoing chemotherapy experience hair loss, which can be distressing and affect their self-esteem. In this article, we will discuss why hair loss occurs during chemotherapy, how to manage it, and what steps you can take to prevent it.
Why Does Hair Fall Occur During Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy drugs are designed to kill rapidly dividing cells, which includes cancer cells. However, they also affect other rapidly dividing cells in the body, such as the cells in hair follicles. This can cause the hair to become thin and eventually fall out. The degree of hair loss depends on the type of chemotherapy drugs being used and the dose, as well as individual factors such as age, genetics, and overall health.
What should you expect?
Hair usually begins falling out two to four weeks after you start treatment.
It could fall out very quickly in clumps or gradually. You’ll likely notice accumulations of loose hair on your pillow, in your hairbrush or comb, or in your sink or shower drain. Your scalp may feel tender.
Your hair loss will continue throughout your treatment and up to a few weeks afterward. Whether your hair thins or you become completely bald will depend on your treatment.
Managing Hair Loss During Chemotherapy
Hair loss during chemotherapy can be managed in a variety of ways. Here are some options:
- Scalp cooling: Scalp cooling is a process that involves cooling the scalp during chemotherapy to reduce the amount of chemotherapy drugs that reach the hair follicles. This can help to reduce hair loss, although it is not effective for everyone.
- Wigs: Many people choose to wear wigs during chemotherapy to cover up hair loss. Wigs can be made from natural or synthetic hair and come in a range of styles and colors.
- Scarves and hats: Scarves and hats can also be worn to cover up hair loss. There are many different styles available, and they can be a fashionable way to express your personality while also concealing hair loss.
- Haircuts: Some people choose to have their hair cut short or shaved before chemotherapy to make the hair loss less noticeable. This can also make it easier to manage as hair starts to fall out.
Preventing Hair Loss During Chemotherapy
While it may not be possible to completely prevent hair loss during chemotherapy, there are steps you can take to reduce the severity of hair loss. Here are some options:
- Scalp cooling: As mentioned earlier, scalp cooling can help to reduce the amount of chemotherapy drugs that reach the hair follicles, reducing the severity of hair loss.
- Minoxidil: Minoxidil is a topical medication that has been shown to help reduce hair loss during chemotherapy. It is applied to the scalp before and after chemotherapy treatment.
- Nutritional supplements: Some studies have shown that certain nutritional supplements, such as biotin and zinc, may help to reduce hair loss during chemotherapy. Talk to your doctor before starting any supplements to make sure they are safe for you.
- Gentle hair care: During chemotherapy, it’s important to be gentle with your hair. Use a soft-bristled brush or comb and avoid using heating tools such as hair dryers or straighteners.
When will your hair grow back?
It may take several weeks after treatment for your hair to recover and begin growing again.
When your hair starts to grow back, it will probably be slightly different from the hair you lost. But the difference is usually temporary.
Your new hair might have a different texture or color. It might be curlier than it was before, or it could be gray until the cells that control the pigment in your hair begin functioning again.
Hair loss during chemotherapy can be a difficult side effect to deal with. However, there are many ways to manage and reduce the severity of hair loss. If you are undergoing chemotherapy and experiencing hair loss, talk to your doctor about your options for managing and preventing hair loss. Remember that hair loss is temporary and will usually grow back after treatment is finished.