Why Chemo Causes Hair Loss
Hair loss is very common during chemotherapy for breast cancer as well as other cancers, though some drugs and methods of administration are more likely than others to disrupt hair follicles.
Chemotherapy drugs work systemically by interfering with the division and growth of rapidly growing cells.
While these drugs can be effective in eliminating cancer cells, they also damage normal cells that divide rapidly. This includes hair follicles , cells in the digestive tract , and cells in bone marrow .
The keratinocytes in the hair follicle divide faster than many malignant cells, and they have a good blood supply that delivers chemotherapy agents to them efficiently. Their fast metabolism also puts them under oxidative stress, which a chemotherapy drug can enhance to the point that the cell dies.
Whether or not you develop hair loss, and the degree to which you do if so, depends on a number of factors including:
- The dose of chemotherapy: Higher doses generally have a greater risk for hair loss.
- How often the chemotherapy is given: More frequent doses carry more risk.
- The route of administration: Intravenous drugs are more likely to cause hair loss than oral drugs.
- The drugs or combination of drugs you receive: Some are more likely to cause hair loss than others, and receiving a combination of drugs increases the risk.
- Your individual makeup: Some people are more likely to lose hair than others, even with the same doses of the same drugs.
We Protect The Rights Of Patients
Drug companies have a duty to ensure their products are safe and when they fail that duty, patients who suffered injuries have rights. Many patients are exercising their rights and seeking justice through the courts. These patients are filing lawsuits against the maker of Taxotere, alleging that if they had known of the risks of the drug, they would not have been treated with it. These patients say they were denied the opportunity to make informed decisions regarding their medical care.
If you are a patient who suffered baldness, permanent hair loss or alopecia after receiving Taxotere treatments, contact us today. Patients who are eligible to seek compensation may be able to receive significant damages for:
- Their mental anguish and suffering
- Permanent disfigurement
To many, hair loss is one of the more dreaded side effects of chemotherapy for cancer. An estimated 65% of patients undergoing classic chemotherapy experience what doctors call alopecia. But while some chemotherapy medications almost always result in such hair loss, others typically cause minimal hair loss.
Other factors related to chemo can affect hair loss as well, such as the dose of the drug given. Of course, effectively treating your cancer is the top priority. But knowing about this potential in advance can help you prepare for it. Fortunately, there are options available to help people cope with this symptom.
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Ways To Manage Hair Loss
Talk with your health care team about ways to manage before and after hair loss:
- Treat your hair gently. You may want to use a hairbrush with soft bristles or a wide-tooth comb. Do not use hair dryers, irons, or products such as gels or clips that may hurt your scalp. Wash your hair with a mild shampoo. Wash it less often and be very gentle. Pat it dry with a soft towel.
- You have choices. Some people choose to cut their hair short to make it easier to deal with when it starts to fall out. Others choose to shave their head. If you choose to shave your head, use an electric shaver so you wont cut yourself. If you plan to buy a wig, get one while you still have hair so you can match it to the color of your hair. If you find wigs to be itchy and hot, try wearing a comfortable scarf or turban.
- Protect and care for your scalp. Use sunscreen or wear a hat when you are outside. Choose a comfortable scarf or hat that you enjoy and that keeps your head warm. If your scalp itches or feels tender, using lotions and conditioners can help it feel better.
- Talk about your feelings. Many people feel angry, depressed, or embarrassed about hair loss. It can help to share these feelings with someone who understands. Some people find it helpful to talk with other people who have lost their hair during cancer treatment. Talking openly and honestly with your children and close family members can also help you all. Tell them that you expect to lose your hair during treatment.
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Will I Lose My Hair With Breast Cancer Treatment
If youre about to begin breast cancer treatment, you may be wondering about the possibility of losing your hair. Hair loss can be difficult to predict, even among patients who receive the same therapy. For the most accurate information on what to expect in your unique situation, you are encouraged to talk with your treatment team.
In general, if you receive certain chemotherapy medications, you may lose some or all of the hair on your head. Thats because the chemo medications may damage some of your hair follicles as they work to destroy your breast cancer. Most likely, if you lose your hair, it will gradually fall out in clumps as you brush or shampoo it. Depending on the specific medications you receive, you may also temporarily lose your eyebrows and eyelashes, as well as the hair on your arms, legs and pubic area.
“Just remember that most side effects from chemotherapy such as hair loss are just temporary while you undergo treatment, and hair will grow back at its normal rate after you finish treatment.”
Tips For Scalp Cooling
To improve the chances of the cold cap being effective, its important the cap covers the whole scalp and fits snugly. You may find the cap uncomfortable, as its very cold and often quite heavy. Some people get headaches, but these usually wear off quickly once the cap is removed. You dont need to cut your hair short before you start treatment, however if your hair is very long or thick it may be helpful to cut it to reduce some weight and make it more manageable.
So that the cold can reach the scalp the chemotherapy nurses may recommend that the hair underneath the cap is lightly dampened. Before the cap is fitted the hair can be sprayed with lukewarm water. A water spray bottle is ideal for this.
Applying a small amount of conditioner to the dampened hair can help with removing the cold cap at the end of treatment. There is no need to leave the conditioner in your hair unless you feel unable to wash it out.
Before the cap is put on the hair should be gently combed back using a wide tooth comb or your fingers so that the front hairline is visible. This is especially important if you have a fringe.
Being able to tolerate the cold will vary widely from person to person. The intense feeling of discomfort or even aching that is felt in the first 10-15 minutes of the treatment should go away as you get used to the cold. Wearing warm layers, sipping hot drinks and covering yourself with blankets can also help.
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Possible Treatment Options For Etihl
For the purpose of preventing the ETIHL, reducing the rebound androgenic effects by maintaining the anti-estrogenic effect may theoretically act as a potential beneficial method for the hair follicle. To do so, combining the endocrine therapies with mitotane and ketoconazole which are used to disrupt the ovarian or adrenal androgenic hormones synthesis may provide this effect . However, some suppression therapies of adrenal glands functions, particularly ketoconazole, have various side-effects such as adrenal insufficiency and hepatic enzyme suppression .
In healthy adults, estrogen is known to play a key role in the hair development in tissue levels and also increase the amino acids and trace elements in hair texture . For this reason, trace elements and/or vitamin supplements may prevent the ETIHL. Moreover, one another important example to demonstrate the beneficial role of vitamins on hair health is that vitamin B6 is known to decrease the efficacy of the estrogen in hair texture or other tissues . Today, even though the opinion of that B6 supplements may be used to treat the baldness, this can theoretically reduce the estrogenic effects on the scalp, hence may not be effective in the management of ETIHL.
Folic acid is also reported to have a positive effect on hair health , however, unfortunately, there are some epidemiological studies that suggest folate may increase the tissue levels of estrogen, indicating that high levels of folic acid might lead to BC .
Expect To Have Feelings About Hair Loss
It is a good idea to go into treatment with the acknowledgment that hair loss may occur. Know that this can result in many different feelings, from anger, sadness, and frustration to lowered self-confidence. By preparing yourself for the different emotions that come with hair loss, you may find the process is easier than you thought.
One member explained it this way: Everyone feels differently about losing their hair. Quite honestly, for me, the anticipation of losing my hair was more traumatic and stressful than actually losing my hair. But that was me.
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Tips For Hair Loss Or Thinning
- Use gentle hair products such as baby shampoos.
- Don’t use perms or hair colours on thinning hair colours may not take well and perms can damage the hair.
- Use a soft baby brush and comb thinning hair gently.
- Avoid using hair dryers, curling tongs, hair straighteners and curlers on thinning hair and pat your hair dry after washing.
- If your scalp flakes or itches this means it is dry use oil or moisturiser, not dandruff shampoo.
- Protect your scalp by covering your head in the sun.
Understanding Hair Loss And Hair Thinning
Some chemotherapy drugs can cause complete hair loss, or hair thinning that is just not limited to the scalp. Some can also lead to complete loss of hair, resulting in no or very little hair remaining. However, for some people the treatment may lead not to hair loss so much as hair thinning.
In both cases, you may wish to seek ways of covering up your hair so that you can remain confident and looking good as you go about your daily life. Womens turbans, chemo hats and human hair wigs are all great options.
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Preparing Your Hair For Chemotherapy
You may wear braids, wigs, and weaves to express your personal style and protect your hair from styling damage and natural elements like humidity. But wearing them during chemo could put extra stress on your scalp.
Chemotherapy drugs may make your scalp sensitive, sore, and itchy. This discomfort should get better a few days after starting treatment. But if youâre wearing braids or other protective styles, the added tension can feel even worse on your scalp. And, the tugging required to take out braids and weaves may be especially painful during chemotherapy. Think about removing hair extensions before starting your chemo treatments to protect your sensitive scalp.
Read To Know What Dr Pawan Gupta Has To Say About Hair Loss And Breast Cancer
Written by Bhavyajyoti Chilukoti | Updated : October 31, 2017 11:59 AM IST
We all know that leaky breasts or a lump in the breast are a sign of breast cancer. But one common question that most people have is — can breast cancer also lead to hair loss? We asked Dr Pawan Gupta, Additional Director, Surgical Oncology, Jaypee Hospital, Noida about the same and here is what he has to say about hair loss and breast cancer.
If you thought that hair loss is a symptom of breast cancer, you are wrong. Breast cancer does not cause hair loss. Moreover, the severity of hair loss is independent of the stage of the cancer and the type of breast cancer. In the case of cancer, as the cell divides continuously, there is a less chance of hair loss. However, if you suffer from breast cancer and are undergoing chemotherapy, then there are high chances that you can lose hair because of the medications. Also, the severity of hair loss is high, if the dose of drugs is high. Hence, hair loss in the case of breast cancer is mainly because of the treatment process — chemotherapy and radiation and not a symptom of the cancer. Here’s more on what to expect after your breast cancer treatment.
Can hair loss during chemotherapy be prevented?
Also Check: How Long Does Chemo Last For Breast Cancer
Hair Loss During Cancer Treatment
This week, we have a guest blog from Suburban Turban, which provides beautiful hats, scarves and turbans for women who are looking for something fashionable to wear while going through hair loss as a result of chemotherapy. Hair loss is a major consideration for many women affected by breast cancer and here, Suburban Turban offers some really useful advice for those faced with what to do during chemotherapy.
Hair is a unique part of our identity and adds to ones appearance. Suddenly losing it because of cancer treatment can be disheartening for both men and women. Head scarves can help people with cancer cope emotionally and physically, helping them to feel beautiful and confident despite the challenges they may be facing.
Will I Lose My Hair
Not all chemotherapy drugs will cause you to lose your hair. Some may have no effect on your hair at all, while others may thin your hair, but not cause it to fall out completely. Your medical oncologist will be able to tell you if the chemotherapy you are receiving might make your hair fall out.
Hair loss from chemotherapy usually involves most hair on your head and body, including eyelashes and eyebrows, pubic hair and nasal hair. If you want more information on hair loss, please read our Hair loss fact sheet. It has a list of common chemotherapy drugs and their likely effects on your hair.
Prolonged or permanent hair loss has been reported in a very small number of cases. Talk to your medical oncologist if you have concerns about hair loss and chemotherapy.
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Hair Loss And Your Job
There tends to be a lot less stigma with being open about a cancer diagnosis in the workplace than there was even a generation ago. If youre planning to continue working or to job hunt during treatment, youre likely to find that many colleagues are understanding about what youre going through.
Still, its up to you to decide how comfortable you feel telling your colleagues or others you interact with in your job about your diagnosis and treatment. If youve lost your hair and you want to maintain your privacy at work, you might choose to wear a wig that looks as close as possible to your natural hair and to otherwise conceal your hair loss . If youre not as concerned about privacy, you might wear a scarf or choose not to hide your hair loss.
How you decide to handle hair loss at work might also depend on your job role and industry. For instance, if you work in a field in which your appearance is front and center more, you might decide that concealing your hair loss on the days you go into work helps you feel more confident.
For more info about navigating your work life during breast cancer treatment, including what to do if you think youve experienced discrimination, see Breast Cancer and Your Job.
Written by: Jen Uscher, contributing writer
This page was developed with contributions from the following experts:
Nik Georgopoulos, Ph.D., associate professor in cell biology, Paxman Scalp Cooling Research Centre, School of Applied Sciences, University of Huddersfield, UK
Will I Lose My Hair During Breast Cancer Treatment
Many people will lose either some or all of their hair as a result of treatment for breast cancer. People who have chemotherapy will often experience hair loss. Some other treatments may cause hair loss or thinning.
If theres a chance that you will lose your hair, your specialist, chemotherapy nurse or breast care nurse will talk to you before treatment starts about what might happen. This should also include information about any risk of permanent hair thinning or loss that could happen as a result of the treatment. As well as talking about practical issues such as caring for your scalp or wearing a wig, you can also discuss your feelings about losing your hair and what support might be available to help you adjust to it.
For some, losing their hair is the most distressing side effect of treatment. Find out more about coping with hair loss.
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Ways To Care For Your Hair When It Grows Back
- Be gentle. When your hair starts to grow back, you will want to be gentle with it. Avoid too much brushing, curling, and blow-drying. You may not want to wash your hair as frequently.
- After chemotherapy. Hair often grows back in 2 to 3 months after treatment has ended. Your hair will be very fine when it starts to grow back. Sometimes your new hair can be curlier or straighteror even a different color. In time, it may go back to how it was before treatment.
- After radiation therapy. Hair often grows back in 3 to 6 months after treatment has ended. If you received a very high dose of radiation your hair may grow back thinner or not at all on the part of your body that received radiation.