How Can I Prepare For Losing My Hair
If youre likely to lose your hair during chemotherapy, it may help to be prepared beforehand. You might want to think about:
- having your hair cut short
- whether you want to use a cold cap
- choosing a wig
- trying out other headwear and wig alternatives
- finding out how to care for your hair and scalp
- learning how to recreate eyelashes and eyebrows
- finding support from other people with experience of hair loss
You might want to have your hair cut short before your treatment starts. For many people this is a way of taking control rather than waiting for hair loss to happen, which in turn can help reduce stress.
Some people ask about donating their hair if they have it cut off. There are organisations that you can donate your hair to for them to make into wigs for other people with hair loss.
If you think youll want to wear a wig, it can be useful to choose a wig before you lose your hair. Some people begin trying out wearing their wig before treatment starts to help them get used to it. It can also help if you want to be fitted with a wig that matches your natural hair colour and style.
You can ask your specialist team or local cancer information centre for more information about any services available in your area.
The charity Cancer Hair Care has lots of information to help people understand and prepare for hair loss.
It may also be useful to talk to other people who have experience of hair loss.
Chemo Less Likely To Cause Hair Loss
Some chemotherapy drugs result in only minimal hair loss, though these are often combined with drugs that cause more hair loss. These include:
- The platinums: Paraplatin , Platinol , Eloxatin
- Antitumor antibiotics: Bleo 15K , Mutamicin , low doses of epirubicin or doxorubicin
- Antimetabolites: Trexall, Otrexup, Rasuvo
- Oral cyclophosphamide
- Topoisomerase inhibitors: Novantrone , Hycamtin or Potactasol
- Alkylating agents: Hexalen
What Are The Side Effects Of Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy side effects vary based on what kind of drugs you take and for how long. Common chemotherapy side effects include:
- Numbness or tingling.
During chemotherapy treatment, many people still work, exercise and care for their families. For others, the treatment can be exhausting and time-consuming. It may be difficult to keep up with usual activities.
Speak with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of chemotherapy. You may manage side effects with supportive medications, such as anti-nausea drugs. Chemotherapy side effects generally go away after you finish treatment.
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Is Fue Hair Transplant Safe
The FUE procedure is considered safe with minor possible side effects, such as tiny white scars where follicles were extracted. In extremely rare cases, there can be infection or tissue death where the surgery was done. You may experience temporary side effects that go away a few days after treatment.
Cold Caps During Chemotherapy
A cold cap is a hat that is worn during some chemotherapy treatments. Its cooling effect reduces blood flow to the scalp, which also reduces the amount of chemotherapy medication that reaches this area. This helps to prevent hair loss.
It’s usually worn for 15 minutes before each chemotherapy treatment. You can find out about scalp cooling caps on the Macmillan website.
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How Long Does Chemotherapy Take For Breast Cancer
Typically, you receive chemotherapy in cycles. You may receive chemo every week or every two, three or even four weeks. Cycles are usually two to three treatments long. Each cycle includes a rest period to allow your body to recover. For example, you may have the same treatment every Monday for three weeks. Then you have an extra week to recover before repeating the cycle. Many people have multiple treatment cycles in a row. Treatment may last three to six months.
The Stages Of Hair Loss During Chemotherapy And How To Look Your Absolute Best
Losing your hair to chemo? No problem. Ive got you, girl. Been there, done that. Is it an easy road? No! But youll have an opportunity to try just about every hairstyle imaginable, so you might as well embrace it and make the best of each stage.
So, lets take it from the top. The doctor tells you that youre going to lose your hair. This is what youll need to do:
- Get a satin pillowcase. If friends or family are asking what they can do for you, tell them to head on over to Morning Glamour for these fabulous satin pillowcases. Why? Because when your hair starts to fall out the, weft of a traditional cotton pillowcase will hurt. Who knew?! And let me tell you, once you sleep on a satin pillowcase, youll never go back. Theyre actually really good for your hair and skin and honestly you just feel kind of like the princess that you really are. Just saying.
- Get a fun baseball cap with hair extensions from Headcovers. Honestly, I probably wore this more than my wig! Why? Because you can throw it on to hang around the house in, run for errands. Its just so easy and it creates a hairline that you may not have. Wigs are awesome, dont get me wrong. But these hats are really great when your energy is low and you just dont feel like fussing.
In addition to products, I thought Id share my own hair loss journey. and the steps that I took to take the sting out of losing my hair:
- I asked my doctor approximately when would my hair fall out.
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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.
What Is The Recovery Time After Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer
When you finish chemotherapy, you may have remaining side effects of treatment. These symptoms may take months or weeks to go away. You may still experience:
- Hair changes, such as hair growing back a different color or texture.
- Nausea or vomiting for two to three weeks.
- Tiredness or fatigue for three to six months.
- Stress or chemo brain for six months to a year.
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Breast Cancer Treatment And Black Hair
A breast cancer diagnosis could mean the loss of your hair. Chemotherapy drugs damage hair follicles, causing locks to fall out in clumps when you wash or comb them.
For some Black women, hair is an expression of identity — from personal to cultural, and even political. Janine Pettiford, MD, a surgical breast oncologist with Northside Hospital in Atlanta, says when her patients learn theyâll need chemotherapy, their first question is often about hair loss. She reminds them, âItâs only temporary. In the bigger scheme of things chemo is helping to control your disease so it doesnât progress.â
Everyone responds to chemo in different ways. You could lose your hair, it may become thinner, or itâs possible youâll keep all of your hair. If you do lose your hair, expect it to start 1 to 3 weeks after your first chemo treatment.
Caring For Your Scalp And Hair
Your scalp and new hair growth need extra care during cancer treatment and beyond. Keep these tips in mind:
- Sun protection. Brown skin has more melanin, which offers natural protection from sun damage. You still need sunscreen, though, especially when youâve lost your hair. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and be sure to cover up with a hat.
- Hair oils. If you typically use natural oils like coconut oil to moisturize your hair, apply them sparingly during cancer treatment. Your bare scalp has a harder time absorbing oil and can make new hair growth look sparse.
- Styling. As your hair begins to grow back in after chemotherapy, be careful with hair extensions, wigs, chemical relaxers, and hair dye. Fragile new hair growth needs more time to bounce back without added stress. Wait until you have 2 to 4 inches of new growth before making any major changes.
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Wigs For Black Hair Loss
Wearing a wig during or after cancer treatment can help you feel more like yourself until your own hair grows back.
Bethany Golden is the owner of the Over My Head Cancer Care Boutique at OhioHealth, which provides wigs, hair coverings, and cold cap therapy for people with cancer. She says some women who use her services worry about appearing vain. âI don’t think saving hair is about vanity at all. I think it’s about keeping normalcy in your life in a situation where you don’t have any control.â
Wigs for hair loss are different than the ones for everyday use. They have special adhesives that help them stay attached to your scalp.
Unfortunately, Black women with tightly curled hair have a harder time finding hair loss wigs that match their natural texture and color. Businesses like Coils to Locs, co-founded by a cancer survivor, cater to Black women with hair loss, but theyâre few and far between.
Wigs for hair loss can also be expensive, ranging from $200 to $1,000. Hand-tied wigs — where the wig maker attaches each strand of hair by hand — are the most versatile type. Theyâre more breathable, natural-looking, and offer a better match for your skin tone underneath the wig. But, theyâre also pricier than other kinds of wigs.
How I Dealt With Permanent Hair Loss And Other Side Effects
When I first lost my hair due to breast cancer treatment, I often heard people say, Dont worry. Its only hair. The implication was that it would grow back eventually. But after a while, I began to notice that it was always the people with a full head of hair who said it. And I am one of the very small percentage of women whose hair didnt grow back after chemotherapy. So, I am still bald to this day.
It doesnt feel like just hair when youre the only one who doesnt have any especially when youre a woman, and you realize that yours is probably never going to grow back. But Im OK with being bald now, three years after my breast cancer diagnosis. Because I am cancer-free, too, and that matters far more to me than having hair.
Most unexpected treatment side effect: permanent hair loss
At first, I couldnt believe I had to give up both my right breast and my hair to be free of cancer. Because here I was, thinking at least I was going to get my hair back, and it turns out the regrowth Id experienced after treatment was only due to the steroids Id been taking. It was totally temporary.
I sat in my dermatologists office and cried when she told me.
It turns out Id developed alopecia areata, a condition that makes hair fall out in patches. It can be caused by chemotherapy, but its usually reversible. Ive tried a few things since then to get my hair to grow back, but nothings really worked. So, Ive accepted the fact that Im probably always going to be bald.
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How Long Will It Take For My Hair To Fall Out After Starting Chemotherapy
The first signs that you are losing your hair may be finding hair on the pillow in the morning or extra hair in your hairbrush. This can still be a shock and very distressing even when youre prepared for it to happen. Wearing a soft hat or turban in bed to collect loose hairs might help.
Cancer Hair Care has useful information on their website explaining the hair loss and regrowth cycle in more detail.
A Short Haircut Might Make A Difference
Shorter hair often looks fuller than longer hair. As a result, hair loss might be less noticeable if you have a short hairstyle. If you typically wear your hair long, consider cutting it before you begin chemotherapy.
After you start chemo, hair loss might make your scalp feel itchy, irritated, or sensitive. Shaving your head can help ease the discomfort. Many people also prefer the look of a cleanly shaved head to partial hair loss.
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Cooling Caps And Black Hair
Cooling the scalp is a way to preserve your hair during chemotherapy. Health care professionals use ice packs or a special cap that holds a cooled liquid. Youâll wear a second cap on top to keep in the cold. Experts think cooling narrows blood vessels in the scalp, slowing the amount of chemo drugs that make it to hair follicle cells.
Research is mixed about whether cooling caps work on textured hair. Some studies show thick, curly hair may not respond as well to scalp cooling. Scientists need to carry out larger, more diverse studies to learn how hair texture affects how well this therapy works.
If you decide to try a cooling cap, keep these tips in mind:
- Youâll need to remove hair extensions or wigs before treatment. Small twists or braids without extensions are probably OK to wear.
- Be sure to let your nurse know your natural hair type so they can offer treatment suggestions.
- Coily hair may need extra time under a cooling cap since it can be denser than other hair types and longer than it appears.
- Some experts suggest temporarily straightening naturally curly hair and applying hair grease to help it lie flat under a cooling cap.
Health care professionals donât always know that cooling caps are OK to use on Afro- textured hair. Talk to your cancer care team and let them know youâd like to use one.
What Causes Hair Loss
Many cancer treatments are designed to kill quickly dividing cells. Cancer cells divide rapidly, but so do some healthy cells, such as those found in hair. Hair follicles are among the most quickly growing cells in the body and are likely to be harmed by cancer treatments.
Not everyone loses hair during breast cancer treatment. If you have , you may be more likely to have hair loss because medicines go after quickly dividing cells. Some chemotherapy medicines make all your hair fall out. Others thin or change your hair, and still others might not impact your hair at all. Whether and when hair loss happens depends on the type of chemotherapy medicines you receive. The and timing of treatments may also be a factor.
Other cancer treatments can also affect your hair:
- Hormonal therapies, such as aromatase inhibitors, , may cause hair thinning or loss
- can cause hair loss to the treated area
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Tips For Possible Complete Hair Loss
- Ask about a wig before you start treatment, so you can match the colour and texture of your real hair.
- If you are feeling adventurous, choose a wig for a whole new look why not try the colour and style you’ve always wanted!
- Think about having your hair gradually cut short before your treatment starts – this might help you get used to seeing yourself with less hair.
- Some people shave their hair off completely to avoid the distress of seeing their hair fall out.
- Wear a hair net at night so you won’t wake up with hair all over your pillow, which can be upsetting.
- Keep your head warm in cooler weather – some people wear a soft hat in bed.
- Rub in oil or moisturiser if your scalp feels dry and itchy, try unperfumed products such as Epaderm, Hydromol or Doublebase.
- Try a moisturising liquid instead of soap if your scalp is dry, for example aqueous cream, Oilatum or Diprobase.
- Protect your scalp by covering your head in the sun – your scalp is particularly sensitive to the sun.
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.
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