Many patients suffering from cancer also have the devastation of facing hair loss from chemotherapy. Not every cancer drug used in chemotherapy will cause hair loss. It is a common aftereffect with this treatment. The hair loss will vary from thinning to a loss of hair. Hair can be lost from all part of the body including pubic hair.
Hair loss will start appearing over a period of a few days or not happen for weeks into the therapy. The hair will come back in about six to eight weeks. When the hair comes back, it can come back different then what the patient is used to. When my mom lost her hair, it went from straight and always needing a perm, to curly.
Those that have lost hair because of chemotherapy, they have the choice to use wigs, scarves, hats, turbans, or hairpieces. Others may choose not to cover their scalp, or cover it only when they are going out. The National Cancer Institute advises cancer patients if they are going to buy a wig for use during chemotherapy, to have it fitted and made before the therapy starts. The wig matches more closely to their original hair color and texture.
Why does hair loss occur when a patient has chemotherapy? The drugs used for cancer treatment are designed to attack fast growing cancer cells. They also attack other cells in your bodies and especially the hair follicles and roots. This means that hair loss may not be limited to the scalp. People also may lose hair from their arms, legs, underarms, and pubic area. The eyebrows and eyelashes may also be affected.
Hair loss will continue for as much as a month after your last chemotherapy treatment. It may fall out by the hands full, or gradually. Specialists tell us that a person has to lose more than 50 percent of their hair before people will start noticing.
Hair growth after chemotherapy is about a quarter inch of hair each month. It could also come in gray until pigment cells start working again and give your hair its natural color.
There isnt a treatment yet to prevent hair loss during and after chemotherapy. Its best to plan, there is a chance you wont lose your hair, but if you have planned and prepared for the loss, everything will be ready if you need it.
Patients have tried placing ice packs on the scalp to slow blood circulation and maybe prevent hair loss. Most find it is cold and uncomfortable and not worth the risk of cancer recurring in the scalp area. It generally works for 50 to 80 percent of those who have tried it.
A drug such as Rogaine may also be used. Its a popular drug used for male pattern hair loss, as well as hair loss in women. It wont prevent hair loss but it does speed up the growth process of new hair. Using this drug may slow down the rate of hair loss, but that depends on each individual.