Additional Medications And Supplements
Many other medications may be useful in preventing or limiting hair loss. Vitamin C, 5-alpha-reductase, omega-3s, and the CDK4/6 inhibitor palbociclib may be helpful, depending on your chemotherapy treatment. Ask your oncologist if there are any new treatments or clinical trials for treatments that might help eliminate or make your hair loss less severe if you are interested in trying them.
Two Bouts With Cancer By Age 35
Breast cancer was actually Dodsons second major cancer. When she was 20 years old, she had Hodgkin lymphoma, which doctors treated primarily with radiation.
From the time she was 20, she was advised that there was a strong correlation between Hodgkin lymphoma and breast cancer, and that coupled with the radiation to her chest put her in a high-risk category for breast cancer.
Doctors told Dodson she should start getting mammogram screenings at age 35 as opposed to age 40.
In 2010, Dodson turned 35 and decided that 36 would be as good as 35, and that there was no harm in waiting a year. She told herself she wasnt going to get a mammogram.
I just didnt want to, Dodson said. It was my husband who brought me kicking and screaming to the mammogram. He told me later that he had actually felt a lump but didnt want to frighten me.
Dodson had one mammogram, followed by an ultrasound and a biopsy.
Sure enough that was it I had breast cancer, Dodson said. If not for my husband, I would not have survived. By 36, I would have been dead.
Dodson quickly learned that she tested positive for the BRCA 2 genetic mutation, which meant an additional increased risk for ovarian cancer.
At the time of her breast cancer diagnosis, Dodsons son was 5 and her daughter was 2. Dodson was hoping to have a third pregnancy that year. Her oncologist strongly advised against it.
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Image Guided Radiation Therapy
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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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.
Radiation Therapy Timing And Breast Reconstruction
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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The Science Of Black Hair
Many people of African descent have naturally curly hair ranging from tightly coiled hair to looser rings. If you look at a strand of this type of hair under a microscope, youâd see itâs flat, twisty, and thin. The twists have natural break points, kind of like a straw when you bend it.
These bends, and a natural tendency to form knots, make curly hair more fragile. Sebum, a natural moisturizer made in your oil glands, has trouble moving down the shaft of curly hair, potentially leaving it drier and more prone to breakage.
Hairstyles like braids, weaves, and wigs sometimes make hair weaker and more likely to break. Researchers also link the heavy use of lye relaxers, which some Black women use to permanently straighten their hair, to hair damage, and possibly higher rates of breast cancer.
Preparing For Hair Loss
If you know that hair loss is a possibility with your specific breast cancer treatment plan, planning ahead can help make the transition easier. Here are a few activities that can help you prepare for hair loss before it happens.
pick out a wig
Wigs can be a great way to keep your confidence up and feel more like yourself during treatment.
Many women choose to pick out their wigs before treatment starts. This is beneficial in many ways. First, it is easier to match the wig to your natural hair color if thats the color you want to keep. It also gives you more time to pick out what works best for you, without feeling rushed.
The same goes for eyebrows. Picking a makeup shade that matches your natural shade will help ensure youre ready should hair loss also impact your eyebrows.
find favorite accessories
Hats, scarves and turbans are some of the accessories that women wear during treatment. Not only do they act as a fashionable addition to an outfit, but they also protect the sensitive skin of your scalp from the elements.
get a short haircut
Rapidly losing your hair can be a big leap for many women. Some opt to cut their hair shorter before their treatment begins. Shorter hair also tends to look fuller than longer hair. This lets them slowly get used to the change in their appearance. From there, you can let the hair fall out as treatment progresses or shave it all off as the treatment begins.
consider cold capping during chemo
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If Youre Having Radiation Therapy To The Pelvis
Radiation therapy to the pelvis can cause side effects such as:
- Bladder problems
- Fertility problems
- Changes in your sex life
You might also have some of the same problems people get from radiation to the abdomen, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.
Radiation to the pelvis can cause problems with urination, including:
- Pain or burning sensations
- Blood in the urine
- An urge to urinate often
Most of these problems get better over time, but radiation therapy can cause longer-term side effects as well:
- Radiation cystitis. If the radiation damages the lining of the bladder, radiation cystitis can be a long-term problem that causes blood in the urine or pain when passing urine.
- Urinary incontinence. Radiation treatments for certain cancers, such as prostate and bladder cancer, may make you unable to control your urine or have leakage or dribbling. There are different types and degrees of incontinence, but it can be treated. Even if incontinence cant be corrected completely, it can still be helped. See Bladder and Bowel Incontinence to learn more. This side effect is most often a problem for men being treated for prostate cancer, but some of the information might also be helpful for women dealing with treatment-related incontinence.
Whats It Like To Lose Your Hair With Breast Cancer
Hair loss is a common side effect of cancer treatments. This change can cause a range of difficult emotions.
Some members of MyBCTeam the social network for people living with breast cancer experience anxiety surrounding hair loss. As one member asked, What did any of you do before learning that you would lose your hair? It is nerve-wracking, and Im a little anxious about the thought.
Others find hair loss to be an incredibly challenging aspect of breast cancer. Hair loss was the scariest thing for me, wrote one member, and its very traumatic, but once you lose your hair and either wear a wig or just go bald, once you embrace it, its so much easier. Many prayers, because this part is hard!
Some members have been surprised by their strong emotional response to hair loss, even if they had initially felt prepared for this change. One member said: It is surprising how hard the hair loss is. Especially after all the tests, biopsies, blood draws, port placement, etc. This has been the hardest thing to deal with .
For some members, hair loss is particularly difficult because it can serve as a constant reminder of a cancer diagnosis. One member explained: I am ashamed to admit that I cried when I got into the shower. I think its because when you lose your hair and look into the mirror, it is a neon sign for the world to see that you have cancer.
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Support If You Lose Your Hair
Losing your hair can be a particularly distressing side effect of treatment. Finding ways to feel more confident in your new appearance can help you to accept and adjust to what has happened, and feel more like yourself again.
Everyones experience of hair loss is different and theres no right or wrong way to feel. Its important you find your own way of dealing with it, but it can be helpful to talk to others and find out what worked for them. Some areas have support groups where you can talk to other people who have experienced hair loss. Your breast care nurse will be able to tell you about local support.
You can also ask your breast care nurse and local cancer information centre for more information about hair loss services in your area.
Breast Cancer Nows Moving Forward courses and Moving Forward resource pack are for anyone who has had a diagnosis of primary breast cancer, helping you approach life after treatment with more confidence.
You can also chat to other people going through breast cancer on our online discussion Forum.
When Not To Use Scalp Cooling
Scalp cooling is not suitable for use in all types of cancer or situations. You wont normally have scalp cooling if there is too high a risk that there might be cancer cells in your scalp blood vessels. This is because the cells in the scalp blood vessels might survive the treatment.
Scalp cooling is not recommended in people:
- with blood cancers such as leukaemia and lymphoma
- whose cancer has spread to the scalp
- who are due to have radiotherapy to their scalp
You would not have scalp cooling with continuous chemotherapy through a pump or with chemotherapy tablets. This is because you would have to wear the cold cap for 24 hours a day.
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Targeted Cancer Drugs And Immunotherapy
There are different types of targeted cancer drugs and immunotherapy that can cause hair problems to different degrees. Some of these drugs cause slower hair growth, hair thinning and dry, brittle hair. Some might cause complete hair loss. They can develop between several weeks to 2 to 3 months after starting treatment.
Instead of hair loss, some targeted cancer drugs cause growth of hair in unexpected areas of the body. For example, excessive hair on the face in women. Or some people might develop very long, curly eyelashes.
Talk to your doctor or nurse if your treatment is causing excessive hair growth. Ask about the safest way to remove unwanted hair. For example, you might need to carefully trim your eyelashes every few weeks to stop them irritating your eyes.
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.
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Those Most And Least Likely Drugs To Have This Side Effect Of 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.
Descriptive Summary Of Data
A total of 1511 patients from 47 hospitals and clinics returned the questionnaire to the data center, a response rate of 81.5% . Since 33 patients did not meet the inclusion criteria, the questionnaires returned by 1478 patients were analyzed. The mean age was 54.7 ± 10.4 years . lists the characteristics of these patients. In 63.5% of the patients, both anthracycline and taxanes were administered. In 20.2% patients, only a taxane was administered, and in 16.3% , only anthracycline was administered. Approximately 70% of the patients received endocrine therapy. Since the duration of endocrine therapy exceeds 5 years, most of these patients were considered to have been receiving endocrine therapy at the time of filling out the questionnaire survey. The distribution of the patients by years from the completion of chemotherapy until participating in this survey was: < 1 year: 411 , 12 years: 352 , 23 years: 287 , 34 years: 224 , and 45 years: 204 . Approximately 96% of the patients were treated and followed in cancer centers, university hospitals, or general hospitals.
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Who Experiences Hair Loss
Not every person will lose his or her hair during cancer care. In fact, two patients taking the same medication may experience different hair-loss side effects. One patient may lose hair, while another doesnt. If alopecia does occur, the extent of hair loss varies widely depending on the type, dosage, frequency and method of treatment, as well as other individual factors.
In some cases, the hair may fall out, but become thin, dull and dry. When hair loss occurs, hair may fall out gradually, quickly, in clumps or entirely. The scalp may also feel tender or itchy beforehand.
Most hair loss is temporary, and hair will grow back after cancer treatment ends. Hair generally grows back within three months after chemotherapy ends and three to six months after radiation ends. Sometimes hair re-growth begins even before therapy is complete. Its common for hair to grow back a slightly different color and texture at first.
Baldness drug treatments, such as minoxidil, are not proven to be consistently effective to reduce or prevent hair loss caused by cancer treatment. In some cases, cooling caps, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for some patients, may help to protect hair cells from chemotherapy drugs. Cooling caps are designed to work by constricting cells, making it more difficult for the drugs to penetrate, and by reducing cellular activity in the hair follicles, making them a less likely target for chemotherapy drugs.