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Do You Lose Your Hair With Breast Cancer Radiation

Those Most And Least Likely Drugs To Have This Side Effect Of Cancer Treatment

The Trauma of Losing Your Hair During Breast Cancer Treatment

Doru Paul, MD, is triple board-certified in medical oncology, hematology, and internal medicine. He is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and attending physician in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center.

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.

How Can I Handle Fatigue

The fatigue you feel from cancer and radiation therapy is different from other times you may have felt tired. Itâs an exhaustion that doesnât get better with rest and can keep you from doing the things you normally do, like going to work or spending time with family and friends. It also can seem different from day to day, which makes it hard to plan around it. It can even change how well you’re able to follow your cancer treatment plan.

Let your doctor know if youâre struggling with fatigue. They might be able to help. There are also things you can do to feel better:

  • Take care of your health. Be sure you’re taking your medications the way you’re supposed to. Get plenty of rest, be as active as you can, and eat the right foods.
  • Work with a counselor or take a class at your cancer treatment center to learn ways to conserve energy, reduce stress, and keep yourself from focusing on the fatigue.
  • Save your energy for the activities that are most important to you. Tackle them first when youâre feeling up to it.
  • Keep a balance between rest and activities. Too much bed rest can make you more tired. But don’t over-schedule your days without giving yourself breaks.
  • Ask for help from family and friends. If fatigue is interfering with your job, talk with your boss or HR department and ask about taking some time off from work or making adjustments in your schedule.

Will Radiation Therapy Cause My Hair To Fall Out

Only people who get radiation to the scalp or the brain may have hair loss. Others won’t. If it does happen, itâs usually sudden and comes out in clumps. In most cases, your hair will grow back after therapy stops, but it may be thinner or have a different texture.

Some people choose to cut their hair short before treatment begins to make less weight on the hair shaft. If you lose hair on top of your head, be sure to wear a hat or a scarf to protect your scalp from the sun when you go outside. If you decide to buy a wig, ask the doctor to write a prescription for one and check to see if it’s covered by your insurance or is a tax-deductible expense.

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Hair Loss And Other Radiation Side Effects

Some people will experience side effects with radiation treatment. The side effects can range from mild to severe and will differ from person to person. Immediate side effects can include nausea and skin irritation. Long term side effects that can cause issues with major organs and body systems are also possible. The side effects that people experience will depend largely on where radiation is received.

Skin irritation in the area where you receive radiation treatment can leave your skin red, tender or itchy, much like a sunburn. You can also experience hair loss in the area where this occurs. For example, if you are receiving radiation treatment near your underarm, you may experience a loss of hair in that area.

We recommend our Alra Therapy lotion to help soothe sensitive skin during treatments. This nourishing cream was developed by a chemist for his wife when she was undergoing radiation treatments. He also created an aluminum free deodorant that can safely be worn during treatments.

People receiving radiation on the brain or scalp can often lose the hair on their head. This hair loss will often be sudden and can come out in large clumps soon after radiation treatment begins. In order to prepare for this, many people who will be receiving radiation in this area will cut their hair short before beginning radiation.

Radiation Therapy Is Painful

Do You Lose Your Hair With Radiation?

Radiotherapy patients should not experience any pain during the procedure, although some report a sense of warmth or tingling. Because the treatment affects fast-reproducing cells, both healthy and cancerous, it can cause some pain later on, generally due to skin irritation in the treated area. For most patients, this is fairly mild. For other patients, radiation therapy can be paused for a few days to allow the skin and other healthy cells to recover before continuing.

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Types Of Breast Cancer

Although most consider breast cancer as one disease, there are many different types of breast cancer. The all start in the breast cancers but differ in other ways. They can be non-invasive or invasive. Tumor cells can vary in location and how they look under a microscope. And Tumor characteristics can vary as well

Non-invasive Breast Cancer Ductal Carcinoma in situ :

In situ means in place. In this case the abnormal cells are contained in the milk ducts of the breast and have not yet spread to nearby tissues.

Without treatment, the abnormal cells could spread and become invasive breast cancer. Some call this type of cancer pre-invasive or pre-cancerous

Invasive Breast Cancer

Cancer cells that spread from inside the milk ducts or lobules into surrounding tissue is invasive breast cancer. There are many types of invasive breast cancer.

Metastatic Breast Cancer

Invasive breast cancer that spreads to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, bones and brain is metastatic breast cancer. It is sometimes called stage IV or advanced breast cancer. Note that metastatic breast cancer is not a type of breast cancer, but a stage of disease.

Hair Loss Thinning And Cancer Treatment

Hair loss or thinning is a common side effect of some cancer treatments.

It’s quite common to have hair loss or thinning with some chemotherapy drugs. Hormone therapy, targeted cancer drugs and immunotherapy are more likely to cause hair thinning. But some people might have hair loss.

Radiotherapy makes the hair fall out in the area being treated. Hair on other parts of the body is not usually affected.

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Do You Lose Your Hair With Radiation

What is Radiation?

Radiation is often used in cancer treatment to target cancer in a specific area to shrink or kill the cells. This typically happens before a cancer removal surgery and can be used in conjunction with chemotherapy.

When receiving radiation, a beam of high energy waves is pointed directly at the area where the cancer is prevalent. This targeted approach aims to kill cancer cells without killing too many of the surrounding healthy cells.

Hair Loss and Other Radiation Side Effects

Some people will experience side effects with radiation treatment. The side effects can range from mild to severe and will differ from person to person. Immediate side effects can include nausea and skin irritation. Long term side effects that can cause issues with major organs and body systems are also possible. The side effects that people experience will depend largely on where radiation is received.

Skin irritation in the area where you receive radiation treatment can leave your skin red, tender or itchy, much like a sunburn. You can also experience hair loss in the area where this occurs. For example, if you are receiving radiation treatment near your underarm, you may experience a loss of hair in that area.

Coping with Radiation and Hair Loss

No matter what you decide to wear to protect your scalp when experiencing hair loss due to radiation, we offer a large selection of headwear items to choose from.

Image Guided Radiation Therapy

Hair Loss In Radiation Therapy – Dr. Afshin Forouzannia

Image Guided Radiation Therapy IGRT is a system that uses frequent imaging of the area being irradiatied to make sure that the radiation is being precisely targeted to the treatment area. This is important because minimize harm to healthy tissues.

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer choosing the right treatment option for you may be overwhelming. It is important to work with your doctor to discuss your treatment options, potential side effects, and the expected results of your treatment plan.

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Easing Worries About Radiation Therapy

Its normal to worry about possible side effects of radiation therapy.

Talk with your health care provider about your concerns.

Your provider may be able to suggest a hospital social worker, patient navigator, psychologist or support group to help ease anxiety related to radiation therapy .

With any standard radiation therapy, you will not be radioactive when you leave the radiation treatment center. You will not pose any radiation risk to your family or your pets.

Learn more about support groups.

Managing Ongoing Hair Thinning

Breast cancer treatments such as hormonal therapy, targeted therapy, and chemotherapy can cause some people to have ongoing mild to moderate hair loss. If youre concerned that your hair isnt growing back or is noticeably thinner than in the past, its a good idea to see a dermatologist. If possible, seek out one who specializes in hair loss or an onco-dermatologist who focuses on problems with the hair, skin, and nails that can develop during cancer treatment. The dermatologist will order blood tests to check whether there are other reasons for your hair loss besides the effects of breast cancer treatments. Thyroid problems, nutritional deficiencies, and other factors can play a role in hair loss.

For mild to moderate hair loss, dermatologists often recommend Rogaine , an over-the-counter medication that promotes hair growth. Its safe for people with a history of breast cancer and moderately effective. But check with your oncologist before you start using minoxidil. In most cases, you can use it while you take hormonal therapy or targeted therapy, but not during chemotherapy treatment. Look for products labeled 5% minoxidil foam that you apply to your scalp when your hair and scalp are dry. Its ok for women to use minoxidil products labeled for men. Minoxidil is thought to stimulate hair growth by, among other things, improving blood flow in the scalp and prolonging the growth phase of each hair follicle.

Also Check: Triple Positive Metastatic Breast Cancer

Radiation Therapy Is A One Of The Best Options For Treatment Of Breast Cancer For Multiple Reasons:

  • Its just as good if not better than traditional mastectomy treatment at eliminating cancer and reducing recurrence, but
  • Its much faster and incredibly more convenient when compared to several surgeries
  • its completely safe as the radiation is highly targeted, no other organs or tissue is ever at risk
  • The cosmetic results are tremendous, you dont need new breasts or reconstruction surgery
  • And when detected early has a 95% success rate
At the Innovative Cancer Institute there is no one-treatment-fits all approach to patient care, especially when it comes to Breast Cancer, the most common cancer diagnosed in the US.

Dr. Beatriz Amendola along with our radiation oncology staff will partnerwith you throughout your entire course of treatment and provide the best individualized cancer therapy using the latest treatment techniques. We work directly with your referring doctors and jointly guide you throughout your treatment course.

How To Prepare For Hair Loss

Pin on Chemotherapy Tips
  • Each person is different. Ask your health care team if hair loss is likely to happen. If it is, ask if it will happen quickly or gradually.
  • If you are going to get chemotherapy that might cause hair loss, talk to your health care team about whether a cooling cap might help reduce your risk. More research is being done to understand how effective and safe cooling caps may be. There are some side effects of cooling caps to consider, such as headaches, scalp pain, and neck and shoulder discomfort. Talk to your health care team about the benefits, limitations, and side effects of cooling caps.
  • If the thought of losing your hair bothers you, you might choose to cut your hair very short or even shave your head before it starts falling out.
  • If you think you might want a wig, buy it before treatment begins or at the very start of treatment. Ask if the wig can be adjusted you might need a smaller wig as you lose hair. To match hair color, you can cut a swatch of hair from the top front of your head, where hair is lightest..
  • Wigs and other scalp coverings may be partially or fully covered by your health insurance. If so, ask for a prescription for a cranial prosthesis. Do not use the word wig on the prescription.
  • Get a list of wig shops in your area from your cancer team, other patients, or from the phone book. You can also order the American Cancer Societys tlc Tender Loving Care® catalog by visiting tlc or by calling 1-800-850-9445.

Also Check: Adjuvant Therapy Breast Cancer

Looking After Your Hair During Breast Cancer Treatment

The following tips may be helpful for all hair types during treatment:

  • try not to wash your hair for about two days after chemotherapy, especially if having scalp cooling
  • use a mild, unperfumed shampoo and conditioner
  • try not to wash your hair more than twice a week
  • use warm rather than hot water
  • pat your hair dry rather than rubbing it
  • brush or comb your hair gently with a soft hairbrush or wide tooth plastic comb
  • avoid plaiting or braiding it as this may damage your hair
  • avoid using elastic bands to tie back long hair
  • avoid any hair colours and dyes, perms, relaxers and other products containing strong chemicals
  • avoid products containing alcohol, such as hairspray, which can irritate the scalp
  • avoid excessive heat from hair straighteners, hairdryers, hot brushes and heated rollers
  • massaging the scalp may help by improving the blood supply to the hair follicles
  • avoid hair extensions and weaves as these can also weaken the hair

If chemotherapy doesnt cause hair loss, it may make it brittle, dry or straw-like, so its a good idea to treat your hair as gently as possible. Hormone therapy can also cause the hair to thin and feel fragile.

Due to its structure, African and Caribbean hair is the most vulnerable to damage of all hair textures so it is recommended to take special care and use specific products.

Tips For Coping With Cancer

Some of the most difficult side effects of cancer treatments may not cause physical pain. They may not cause fatigue or digestive issues. And they may only be temporary. But for some cancer patients, hair loss may be one of the most distressing side effects of cancer treatment.

Hair loss, or alopecia, may make you feel vulnerable, self-conscious and exposed as a cancer patient. Hair loss is also a tangible sign that your life has changed, which may trigger feelings of anger and depression. And you may be faced with questions from others that you arent prepared to deal with yet.

For some, the threat of hair loss may intensify the lack of control you may feel after a cancer diagnosis. But it also presents an opportunity to emotionally prepare for losing your hair and take steps to deal with it before it happens. It helps to understand why hair falls out and how to handle it if it occurs.

Also Check: How Treatable Is Breast Cancer

Radiation Therapy Will Make You Radioactive

This one is technically true, but only for certain cases. Most patients will receive external radiation treatment, which does not make them radioactive or in any way dangerous to those around them. A few patients will receive internal radiation, meaning a small piece of radioactive material is inserted directly into the cancerous tissue. While this material is inside a patient, he or she is technically radioactive but will be quarantined until the material is removed. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about radioactivity during or following your treatment.

Radiation Therapy Timing And Breast Reconstruction

Breast Cancer Treatment Causes Patients To Lose Their Hair

The timing of radiation treatment in your overall breast cancer treatment plan depends on your individual situation and the characteristics of the breast cancer.

In many cases, radiation therapy is given after surgery. If chemotherapy is planned after surgery, radiation usually follows chemotherapy.

If youre having mastectomy and have decided to have breast reconstruction, its important to know that radiation can cause a reconstructed breast to lose volume and change color, texture, and appearance.

In particular, radiation therapy is known to cause complications with implant reconstruction. Research also suggests that a reconstructed breast may interfere with radiation therapy reaching the area affected by cancer, though this can vary on a case-by-case basis.

For these reasons, some surgeons advise waiting until after radiation and other treatments, such as chemotherapy, are completed before breast reconstruction surgery is done.

Other surgeons may recommend a more staged approach, which places a tissue expander after mastectomy to preserve the shape of the breast during radiation treatments. Once radiation is completed and the tissues have recovered, the expander that was used to maintain the shape of the breast is removed and replaced with tissue from another part of the body or a breast implant.

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