Chemotherapy Hair Loss: Causes And How To Handle It; The human body is extremely complex and at times, trying to figure out why something goes wrong with it, can be a tough task. Cancer is one such situation – while there are some types of cancers, the causative agents for which are clear, there are those, where there is still a lot of research required. Cancer is a difficult condition on several levels – the fact that it depletes the body from within, the effect it has on the people around the patient and of course the physical problems that it brings. One of the most common problems associated with cancer is hair loss and this is brought about because of the chemotherapy.
Why does chemotherapy cause hair loss?
The way cancer spreads is that the cancer cells multiply at a speed that is greater than normal healthy cells. There are also certain healthy cells in the body which multiply just as fast – these include the lining of the stomach and hair cells. The drugs that are used for chemotherapy are extremely powerful, which are meant to attack the cancer cells that are growing in the body. Unfortunately, these drugs are unable to differentiate between the good and the bad cells, which is why they attack healthy cells too, including those of the hair. The hair loss could be from any part of the body – the head, eyebrows, armpits and even eyelashes in certain cases.
These days, the modern drugs being used for chemotherapy are a lot more precise, which means that they can target only the cancer cells, leaving the other cells alone and undamaged. This ensures that the hair loss is minimal, but there is no guarantee that there will be no hair loss at all. In most cases, the lower the dosage of the drugs, the lesser the side effects. However, the response of each individual to the drugs is different, which is why the hair loss will also vary.
Chemotherapy Hair Loss: What can you expect?
If you thought that your hair would start to fall out immediately, you are wrong, because, for each person, the manner in which the drugs react within the body is different. For some people, the hair loss might start in the first few weeks, for others, the hair loss might not start until the fourth or fifth session. Similarly, the stages of hair loss will vary from person to person – while for some people there will be a diffused thinning, for some people, hair might fall out in clumps. Because the hair loss is so different in each person, many people even choose to completely shave off their heads during the course of the treatment, simply because they do not want to deal with the gradual hair loss.
It is important to remember that the hair loss will continue not just through the course of the treatment, but also a few weeks post that. The extent of your hair loss will be dependent on the type of treatment, which is why it would make sense to talk to your doctor about the same, well in advance.
Chemotherapy Hair Loss: Will the hair grow back?
In most cases, once the treatment has been completed, your hair will start to grow back, but the manner in which your hair grows back might be different. As a matter of fact, the new hair that grows back could be of a completely different texture and colour too. However, in most cases, the difference should be temporary and once your body comes back to normalcy, the hair should also return to normal.
Can the hair loss be avoided during chemotherapy?
As of now, there is no treatment that can prevent chemotherapy hair loss, and even though there are those who claim that they have found methods to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy, there is no supporting evidence for any. There has been research about scalp cooling caps and minoxidil being used during chemotherapy, but neither has proven to be sure shot methods to prevent hair loss. Cooling caps are close-fitting caps, which are placed on the scalp to slow down the blood flow to the scalp, during chemotherapy and while it might help a little, it cannot avoid hair loss completely. Similarly, minoxidil has been recognised and approved to treat hair loss by FDA, there is no guarantee that it can prevent hair loss during chemotherapy. However, when taken under medical advisement, minoxidil could help fasten up the hair regrowth process.
What can be done to combat hair loss post-chemotherapy?
While there is not much you can do about your hair loss during the chemotherapy, there are things that you can do to manage the chemotherapy hair loss and whatever hair that remains:
- When you are going in for chemotherapy, you need to remember that your hair will become extremely weak, which is why you need to truly baby it. Keep all chemical and heat-related treatments away from your hair and try to keep them natural, as much as possible.
- You are going to lose hair, so it might make sense to cut it a little short beforehand because that will help maintain a little more volume. If you are losing too much hair, then shaving might be a good idea.
- If you are not comfortable with the hair loss, you might want to look into methods to cover your head, which could vary from caps to bandanas and even wigs.
- Every time you are stepping out of the house, you need to ensure that you protect your scalp – wear a hat or scarf because you need to remember that your scalp will be extremely sensitive.
- Even after your treatment is over, you need to protect your head and hair – when new hair starts to grow in, you need to be extremely gentle with them. Keep all styling tools and products away from your hair, until they truly take root. Heat and chemicals could damage whatever new hair is growing in. In addition, your scalp will be extremely sensitive, which means that these chemicals could cause much irritation.
Cancer and chemotherapy can be extremely tough – chemotherapy hair loss is usually unavoidable. You need to keep up your mental strength and ensure that you have a positive attitude throughout.