It’s a sad fact that the trauma of a cancer diagnosis is often followed by the very real possibility of hair loss. This double whammy takes time to process and we’re sure that you’ll want to collect as much information as possible during this time.
While we are not medical professionals, it is our business to help people both to understand and deal with hair loss during and after your treatment program.
Having the facts at your disposal will certainly help you to manage your expectations and make the best of your situation. Let’s take a look at some commonly asked questions around hair loss and chemotherapy.
Hair Loss and Chemotherapy Questions
Chemotherapy is an aggressive cancer treatment made up of a drug cocktail that targets fast-growing cells in our bodies.
Cancer.org notes the following important points relating to chemotherapy.
“Chemo is considered a systemic treatment because the drugs travel throughout the body, and can kill cancer cells that have spread (metastasized) to parts of the body far away from the original (primary) tumor. This makes it different from treatments like surgery and radiation. Surgery removes a tumor from a part of the body where cancer has been found, and radiation therapy is aimed at a certain area of the body to kill or damage cancer cells. Treatments like these are called local treatments because they affect one part of the body.”
The fact that the chemo treatment affects the whole body and is not localised is the key reason for hair loss.
Why Does Chemotherapy Cause Hair Loss?
Chemo uses cytotoxic drugs to kill off cancer cells. However, by definition, cytotoxic drugs are “toxic to cells” which includes other healthy cells within your body. Hair follicles contain some of the fastest-growing cells in the body which get caught up in the indiscriminate culling during chemotherapy treatments.
As the chemo drugs are disseminated throughout the body via the blood, most, if not all hair follicles are affected. For most patients, this results in partial or complete hair loss including eyelashes and brows, facial hair, armpit, leg, arm and pubic hair.
Can I Prevent Hair Loss During Chemo?
As it stands, there exists no proven way to prevent hair loss due to chemotherapy. Sadly, while some may avoid the ravages of complete hair loss, most people won’t. There are some options though, which may mitigate the extent of hair loss but aren’t proven to be completely effective.
What About Scalp Cooling Caps?
Scalp cooling caps or scalp hypothermia were developed for use during and immediately after chemo treatments in an attempt to reduce the effect of the drugs on the hair follicles. The theory is that the scalp cap cools the head which restricts blood flow to the follicles, thereby protecting them from the chemo.
Some people have found them useful in certain situations. Others have found that they experience severe headaches, and in some cases, there is an increased risk of cancer recurring in the scalp as the treatment was been prevented from working in that area. Depending on your situation, it’s worth chatting to your doctor to find out more about how these scalp cooling caps would work for you.
What About Minoxidil?
Minoxidil will not prevent hair loss, but rather is marketed to men suffering from male pattern baldness and women with thinning hair to promote hair growth. However, online medical sources comment that they don’t know exactly how Minoxidil works and that you would need to use it for several months to see the effects. If this is something that you’re looking into, we advise chatting with people who have used it and who can offer first-hand reviews as to its effectiveness.
How Can I Deal With Hair Loss
We completely understand how devastating it can be to lose your hair. It’s no small thing. Not only does it affect our identity and self-confidence, but it is also a recognised beacon to the world that we are fighting cancer – information that many wish to keep private.
If you are in this position, there are some steps you can take to help ease the sting of losing your hair, and at the same time create the perfect environment for it to grow back once your chemo is over.
- Before your treatment, keep your hair short and healthy. Avoid chemical treatments that may encourage hair fall which would exacerbate the effects of the chemo. If you have longer hair, consider cutting it before you start treatment. Some find that this makes the transition a little easier to deal with.
- During treatment, be gentle. Use mild hair care products and treat your hair with care. Brush and style gently and wash only when you need to.
- Consider scalp massage after treatment. There has been some promising research around the benefits of scalp massage. Healthline tells us “According to research, scalp massage increases hair thickness by stretching the cells of hair follicles. This, in turn, stimulates the follicles to produce thicker hair. It’s also thought that a scalp massage may help dilate blood vessels beneath the skin, thereby encouraging hair growth.”
- Chat to our team about a wig. Most of our wigs are almost undetectable from the real thing, especially for women who would struggle to deal emotionally with hair loss. Remember too, that every wig or hairpiece purchased at Hair to Ware comes with FREE customisation, guidance and advice from experienced professionals, whether in-store or online. We will cut and fit it specifically to your circumstances and guide you through the whole process with no added consultation fee.
Caring For Your Hair
Hair loss and chemotherapy may go hand-in-hand, but you don’t have to deal with it alone.
Our team here at Hair to Ware are all deeply invested in helping people just like you cope with hair loss. We understand, not only the science behind caring for your scalp and crafting beautifully natural-looking wigs but also the emotional toll that this season will elicit.
We are here to help. Please feel free to call in and book a consultation where we can answer all your questions.