Most cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy will experience hair loss, which can significantly alter their appearance. Chemotherapy drugs target rapidly-growing cells in the body, but cannot distinguish between cancer cells and other fast-growing cells like hair follicles. Hair loss can occur all over the body: head, face, limbs, underarms and pubic area.
Whether or not hair loss occurs depends on the type and dosage of the cancer drug. Ask your doctor if your chemotherapy treatment will result in hair loss so you can be prepared.
Hair loss usually begins 7-21 days after treatment begins, and starts to grow back after treatment ends, although some people start getting hair back during treatment. The time it takes to re-grow hair can vary from 3-12 months. Occasionally, the new hair will have a different texture or color.
Chemotherapy-induced hair loss cannot be prevented, but there are ways to cope:
- Consider cutting your hair short or shaving your head once hair loss begins
- Use mild shampoos and soft hair brushes
- Avoid blow dryers, curling irons, and other hot appliances
- Keep your scalp clean and moisturized to prevent skin problems
- Protect your scalp from the sun with hats, wigs or sunscreen
- Be creative: use colorful scarves, turbans or hats. Make sure headwear is not too tight or irritates the scalp.
- Wigs are an option, although good-quality wigs can be expensive. Some insurance plans may help cover the cost of a wig.
- Embrace your baldness!