Looking After Your Scalp After Hair Loss
Remember to protect your scalp from the sun. Cover your head when in the sun or use a high protection factor sun cream at all times, as the scalp is particularly sensitive.
We lose a lot of heat from our heads so cover your scalp in colder weather.
If your scalp is dry, flaky or itchy you can use unperfumed moisturiser or natural oils such as almond or olive oil to help with this. Some people use aromatherapy oils, but it is best to consult a trained aromatherapist as the oils can be very strong.
Eyebrow And Eyelash Loss From Chemotherapy
Here are some of the ways you can create the look of fuller eyebrows and eyelashes if chemotherapy caused yours to fall out or become thinner:
- Use makeup products such as eyebrow pencils, eyebrow powders, tinted eyebrow gel, and eyebrow stencil kits to create a natural eyebrow shape or to help fill in sparse areas.
- Try stick-on false eyebrows or temporary eyebrow tattoos, which are available in many shades and shapes. Typically, theyre applied to the skin with special adhesive. If youre thinking of giving stick-on brows or temporary brow tattoos a try, check to see if your skin is sensitive to the adhesive and be careful when removing them since doing so can potentially rip out some of your remaining hair.
- Semi-permanent eyebrow tattoos can look quite natural and last 12-18 months. Microblading is done at specialized salons by licensed technicians. If youre considering microblading, check with your oncologist. He or she will probably recommend that you wait until youre done with chemotherapy before getting microblading because of the risk of infection and of being sensitive to the pigment.
When Does Hair Grow Back After Chemotherapy
How long it takes for the hair on your head to grow back after chemotherapy varies a lot from person to person. Here’s a typical timetable for hair regrowth on the head:
- 34 weeks after chemotherapy ends: soft fuzz
- 1 month to 6 weeks after: real hair starts to grow
- 23 months after: about an inch of hair
- 36 months: about 23 inches of hair
- 12 months: 46 inches of hair
The hair on your head may be a different color, texture, or volume when it grows back. If you were dyeing or chemically treating your hair before you started chemotherapy, you might be surprised to see what your natural hair looks like when it grows back.
In many cases, hair eventually returns to the way it used to be after the effect of chemotherapy on the hair follicle wears off. But some people have incomplete hair regrowth. And sometimes permanent baldness and loss of eyebrows and eyelashes can occur, particularly in people who received Taxotere.
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/ Will My Hair Look The Same When It Grows Back
Hair that grows back after chemotherapy often looks different to begin with. The colour may be different to how it was in the past but the texture often changes as well. People who had straight hair before chemo might find they have curly hair and vice versa. Sometimes this is just temporary and you will get your own hair back after a few months to a year. Sometimes the changes are permanent. Hair growth after chemo is a different experience for everyone. Some peoples hair grows back thicker and more difficult to manage, while others find it softer and finer. Other factors can also influence your hair texture, such as hormone therapy for the treatment of breast cancer.
Please note that we have limited ourselves to the most common questions. Our answers are based on hair growth as experienced by the majority of the people after chemotherapy. There are always exceptions to the rule. Do you have any more questions or concerns? Talk to your doctor, your oncology coach or your nurse.
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Chemo More Likely To Cause Hair Loss
Chemotherapy medications with the highest risk of causing hair loss in many people include:
- Alkylating agents:Cytoxan or Neosar , Ifex , Myleran or Busulfex , Thioplex .
- Antitumor antibiotics: Cosmegen , Adriamycin or Doxil;, Idamycin
- Topoisomerase inhibitors: VePesid , Camptosar
- Antimicrotubule agents: Taxol , Taxotere , Ellence , Ixempra , Ellence , Marqibo or Vincasar , Alocrest or Navelbine
- Antimetabolites:Efudex , Gemzar
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Covering The Cost Of A Wig
Many health insurance companies cover part or all of the cost of the wig if your doctor writes a prescription. A wig is, after all, a remedy for a treatment side effect, just as important as medication you take to treat nausea. Here are the steps to take if you want to try to get your insurance to pay for your wig:
- Before purchasing a wig, call your health insurance company and ask if they will cover a cranial prosthesis for hair loss related to chemotherapy or radiation therapy. If so, ask what is the maximum cost they will cover, what paperwork you will need to submit your claim , and how long it will take to get reimbursed.
- In most cases, you will have to pay for your wig upfront and then get reimbursed after you submit a claim to your insurance company. Typically, youll need to send your insurance company a prescription from your doctor for a cranial prosthesis or a hair prosthesis , the receipt for the wig , and a completed insurance claim form. Some wig providers and hospital centers will handle the insurance claim for you and wont require you to pay upfront.
- Keep a copy of your receipt if you end up paying for all or part of your wig out of pocket. It might be a medical expense that you can take as a tax deduction.
Fingernail And Toenail Changes
Some chemotherapy drugs can damage your fingernails and toenails. The nails may:
- Become brittle and sore
- Fall off
Like hair loss, nail problems are short-term.
Keeping your nails short during treatment may make nail care easier. Your nails will return to normal once chemotherapy ends.
You can use nail polish whenever you wish.
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Hair Loss And Cancer Treatment
If treatment will cause hair loss, try wearing fun scarves and earrings or a cap, from time to time.
Some types of chemotherapy cause the hair on your head and other parts of your body to fall out. Radiation therapy can also cause hair loss on the part of the body that is being treated. Hair loss is called alopecia. Talk with your health care team to learn if the cancer treatment you will be receiving causes hair loss. Your doctor or nurse will share strategies that have help others, including those listed below.
The Emotional Impact Of Hair Loss
Hair loss can be traumatic in part because its so visible. You may feel that it reveals to the world that youre a cancer patient, threatening your privacy. And you may have to deal with it around the same time that youre facing other unwanted changes to your body and appearance due to treatment.
Of course, not everyone reacts to treatment-related hair loss in the same way. For some, it can be devastating, especially at the beginning. For others, its a big inconvenience but it doesnt affect them as deeply.
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/ Why Doesnt Every Chemo Patient Lose His Or Her Hair
Chemotherapy uses a specific mix of cancer drugs. The mix you will receive depends on the type of cancer you have. Some drugs cause hair loss, others cause little to no hair loss whatsoever. Some chemo treatments do not make peoples hair fall out but it does become thinner or duller. Your doctor is the best person to inform you about how much hair loss you can expect.
Permanent Hair Loss Lawsuits
Patients across the country are filing lawsuits against the maker of Taxotere alleging they were exposed to the increased toxicity of the drug as compared to similar medications as well as to adverse events associated with the medication, including alopecia. These patients accuse the drug maker of:
More than patients and their families are seeking the help of the legal system to get justice. A former Sanofi-Aventis employee filed a whistleblower lawsuit in 2015 alleging that the drug maker paid healthcare providers kick-backs to incentivize them to prescribe the drug for uses not approved by the FDA and trained its employees to increase market share by misrepresenting the efficacy and safety of the drug. In fact, the whistleblower lawsuit said that because of these actions, Taxotere sales jumped within four years from $400 million to $1.4 billion.
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/ Should I Cut My Hair Short Or Shave It Before Chemotherapy
Cutting or shaving your hair is not essential but it is often recommended. Some people find it makes the transition from long hair to a bald head less abrupt if they cut their hair short just before chemotherapy. This also has a practical advantage: when your hair starts to fall out, you wont lose big, long chunks of hair but just short hair or stubble. Some people find this less confrontational. Others choose to cut their hair short because it makes them feel in control of the hair loss process themselves instead of being passively subjected to it. A tip: if you choose to shave off your hair, we recommend using an electric trimmer or clipper . Be careful to avoid cutting yourself. If you are not used to using these devices, go to the hairdresser or ask someone with experience.
How To Grow It Back After Treatment
Start researching ways to grow it back and make a plan. Your best options include:
- To accelerate hair growth as much as possible, invest in a Theradome Laser helmet. They are expensive, but this FDA approved device does its job well and will speed up the process as much as possible.
- Eat a diet rich in whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables at every meal you can find great recipes in our Cancer-Kicking! Kitchen program.
- Drinking green tea and taking vitamins A, B6, C and biotin and folic acid supplements may help restore hair growth as well.
- Regular exercise, yoga, meditation, breathing and other relaxation methods lower stress that can exacerbate menopausal symptoms, including hair thinning.
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Why Is Permanent Hair Loss Such A Big Deal
Some people may not understand why permanent hair loss is such a big deal, but for those who are currently suffering from the condition, the consequence is all too real.
For many patients who finally hear the news that they are cancer free, the reality does not set in until they regrow their hair. It is a visual reminder that their lives have once again regained some form of normalcy after a battle which is trying to both the body and the mind.
When cancer patients find they are unable to regrow their hair once chemotherapy ends, many survivors find themselves feeling angry, upset, frustrated, and depressed. Their lack of hair then becomes a permanent scar left behind by the cancer and subsequent treatment. This is not good for the already thinly stretched mental health of people who have just fought bravely for the right to live. In turn, this can lead to anxiety, and a host of other mental illnesses.
Where To Get A Wig
How do you find a wig? There are a number of options:
- At a wig shop. You can get recommendations for local wig shops or specialists through breast cancer organizations, your hospitals cancer center, or through your hairdresser. Some wig specialists come to your home to provide additional privacy.
- Online. Like most things nowadays, you can shop for a wig online. Online retailers have a large selection of wigs in every color, length, and style. Some offer consultations over the phone or via email to help you find the right style for you. This can also be a good option if youd prefer more privacy when selecting your wig.
- Through a charity program. Instead of shopping for a wig , you may want to look into getting a wig for free through programs of the American Cancer Society or other nonprofit organizations .
Wherever you decide to shop for a wig, be sure to find out about return and exchange policies in advance. You may want to try on several wigs at home and return some of them, or you may decide after trying some on that you dont want to opt for a wig at all. So, its useful to know if there will be restocking fees or other limitations on returns.
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Increased Risk For Leukemia
Although rare, receiving chemotherapy can put you at higher risk for developing leukemia down the line. If this is the case, it usually appears within 10 years of receiving chemotherapy.
For most people, the benefits of receiving chemotherapy to help treat breast cancer outweigh the slight risk for developing leukemia.
Help With The Cost Of Wigs
You can get free synthetic wigs on the NHS if:
- you’re under 16, or you are 19 or under and in full-time education
- you’re a hospital inpatient
- you or your partner are getting Universal Credit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance or the guarantee credit of Pension Credit
- you have an NHS tax credit exemption certificate
- you are named on a valid HC2 certificate
Cancer Research UK has more information on getting a wig on the NHS.
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Effect Of Other Cancer Therapies
The newer targeted therapies for cancer don’t usually cause total hair loss like chemotherapy drugs but can result in changes such as thinning of the hair and dryness, as well as changes in texture similar to chemo curls. Some targeted therapies may also affect the pigmentation of hair, often causing the hair to become darker.
Some of the targeted therapies that have been linked with hair changes or hair loss include:
- Cyclin-dependent kinase 4/6 inhibitors such as Ibrance , Kisqali , and Verzenio
- VEGF inhibitors such as Nexavar
- BRAF inhibitors such as Zelboraf and Tafinlar
- Bcr/Abl inhibitors such as Tasigna and Gleevec
Some of the hormonal therapies commonly used for breast cancer have been associated with thinning of the hair for some people. Unlike chemotherapy, people may be using the drug for many months or even years before they notice the changes in their hair. Hormonal therapies more often linked to hair loss include:
- Aromatase inhibitors: Hair loss appears to be more common with Arimidex and Femara than with Aromasin .
Immunotherapy drugs for cancer, at least checkpoint inhibitors, do not usually cause hair loss, though oftentimes these drugs are used along with chemotherapy. Researchers are looking at ways of harnessing the gene involved in autoimmune alopecia to improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy And Hair Loss
Certain chemotherapy medicines used to treat breast cancer can cause the hair on your head to become thin or to fall out completely. Some chemotherapy medicines can also cause hair loss on other parts of your body, such as your eyebrows and eyelashes, pubic hair, and hair on your legs, arms, or underarms.
Whether you lose your hair and how much you lose depends on a variety of factors. This includes the type, combination, and dose of chemotherapy medicines you get, as well as other medical conditions , nutrition status, and stress. The timing of chemotherapy treatments also affects hair loss. Some types of chemotherapy are given weekly and in small doses, which may minimize hair loss. Other types of chemotherapy are scheduled every 3 to 4 weeks in higher doses and may be more likely to cause more hair loss.
Talk with your doctors before chemotherapy begins so you know what to expect in your individual situation. If you find out that you will be receiving chemotherapy medicines that are likely to cause hair loss, you may want to look into the possibility of using a scalp cooling system or manual cold caps during your infusion sessions to help limit the amount of hair you lose. Read more about preventing hair loss with Cold Caps and Scalp Cooling Systems.
Some of the chemotherapy medicines used to treat breast cancer that can cause hair loss are:
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Hormonal Therapy And Hair Loss
Some hormonal therapies used to treat breast cancer can cause mild to moderate hair loss, or hair thinning, often at the frontal hairline, the middle part, or the crown of the head. These medicines include:
- tamoxifen, a selective estrogen receptor modulator
- Faslodex , an estrogen receptor downregulator
- Arimidex , Aromasin , and Femara , which are called aromatase inhibitors
Hormonal therapies work either by lowering estrogen levels or by blocking the effects of estrogen in breast tissue. Researchers dont know exactly why hormonal therapies cause hair loss, but by lowering estrogen levels they reduce the growth of hair follicles.
If you experience hair loss as a side effect of hormonal therapy, it may take between 6 months and 2 years before you notice it. Often the hair loss will level off after the first year or so. But the thinning will last as long as you keep taking the medicine, which is often from 5 to 10 years. Hair will usually start growing back a few months after you stop taking hormonal therapy.