Getting A Breast Biopsy
In a breast;biopsy, the doctor takes out small pieces of breast tissue to check them for cancer cells. A biopsy is the only way to tell for sure if you have breast cancer.
There are many types of biopsies. Ask your doctor what kind you will need. Each type has risks and benefits. The choice of which type to use depends on your own case.
Sometimes, surgery is needed to take out all or part of the lump to find out if its cancer. This is often done in a hospital using local anesthesia . You might also be given medicine to make you sleepy.
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.
What Can I Do If Hair Loss Is Expected With My Radiation Therapy Treatment
Each person responds differently when learning that they may experience hair loss. There is no right or wrong response. What’s important is to do what you feel comfortable with, to do what is right for you. If you expect to lose the hair on your head during your cancer treatments, the following tips may be helpful:
- If your hair is long, cutting it shorter may help decrease the impact of your hair loss when it occurs.
- Some people find it easier to deal with hair loss by shaving their heads before hair loss occurs.
- Be sure to protect your head with a hat to prevent sun exposure on sunny days- and not just in the summer months! This is especially important for men who are less likely to wear a wig or turban/scarf.
- Use a soft-bristle brush and a gentle, pH-balanced shampoo.
- Don’t use hair dryers, hot rollers, or curling irons because they may damage your hair and make hair loss more severe.
- Don’t bleach or color your hair, and don’t get a permanent. All of these make your hair brittle and may cause your hair to fall out faster.
- Sleep on a satin pillowcase to decrease friction.
Also Check: Can Breast Cancer Develop In One Year
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
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
About Hair Loss From Treatment
Some cancer treatments may make your hair fall out completely. This may be from your head and other parts of your body. This is usually temporary. Other treatments can cause permanent hair loss in specific areas of your body. Sometimes you may not lose all your hair, but your hair can become thinner or more likely to break .
There are practical steps you can take to reduce hair loss during treatment, including scalp cooling.
Those Most And Least Likely Drugs To Have This Side Effect Of Cancer Treatment
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.
Read Also: How Can I Tell If I Have Breast Cancer
Why Does Chemotherapy Cause Your Hair To Fall Out
Chemotherapy drugs target rapidly dividing cells, so they damage some healthy cells as well as cancer cells. The healthy cells damaged include the cells in the hair follicles, which is why chemotherapy can make your hair fall out. As well as the hair on your head, this can also affect your body hair including eyebrows, eyelashes and pubic hair, and chest hair for men
Not all chemotherapy will make your hair fall out. Some drugs dont cause any hair loss, some cause hair to thin, while others make hair fall out completely. How much hair you lose will depend on the type of drugs you are given and the dose. Drugs that are given in smaller doses on a weekly basis or are taken by mouth are less likely to cause hair loss. If you are receiving a combination of chemotherapy drugs you are more likely to have hair loss. Your specialist or your chemotherapy nurse will talk to you about your treatment and how likely you are to lose your hair.
The Stage Of So Many Eye Rolls
Heres the thing. When you tell people you have cancer, especially as a youngish woman, they go straight for the hair loss talk, never mind what chemo may do to your entire body or the cancer thats trying to kill you. You get a lot of: You might not lose your hair. You know not everyone does. My sisters neighbors babysitters mom didnt, and Ive heard that if you use this special shampoo and only brush your hair at midnight on the night of a full moon when the tides are high and youre wearing red nail polish, you wont lose your hair.
Things To Think About
Scalp cooling only blocks certain drugs and does not work for everyone. You might still have hair thinning, or lose your hair completely. You can’t tell whether it will work for you until you try it.
You spend longer at hospital having your treatment if you have scalp cooling. You need to wear the cap before, during and after you have the chemotherapy drugs into your bloodstream.
The time varies depending on the drug and type of cold cap system your hospital has. For the Paxman scalp cooling system you might wear the cap:
- before treatment or about 30 to 45 minutes depending on your hair type
- during treatment for as long as it takes to recieve your chemotherapy drugs
- after treatment for a minimum of 30 to 90 minutes depending on the drugs you have had
Your nurse might ask you to dampen or wet your hair before you put on the cap or cooling system. This is to improve contact between the scalp and cap and lowers the temperature of the skin on your scalp.
You also have a small amount of conditioner added to help in removing the cap after you have finished treatment.
Research suggests that scalp cooling with Afro Caribbean hair is not as successful. So your nurse might recommend you have longer periods of scalp cooling if;this applies to you.
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.
Read Also: How Many People Die From Breast Cancer
Cancer Symptoms In Women
Breast lump or change. Although it’s a hallmark symptom of breast cancer, most lumps aren’t cancer. They’re often fluid-filled cysts or noncancerous tumors.
Still, see your doctor right away if you find any new or changing growths in your breasts, just to make sure.
Also get these changes checked out:
- Redness or scaling of the skin over the breast
- Breast pain
Coping With Hair Loss
Hair is constantly growing, with old hairs falling out and being replaced by new ones. Some cancer treatments make people lose some or all of their hair, most often in clumps during shampooing or brushing.
Its normal for both men and women to feel upset about losing their hair. It helps to know that hair grows back, and you can take steps to make its loss less of problem for you.
Hair is lost when chemotherapy drugs damage hair follicles, making hair fall out. It can be hard to predict which patients will lose their hair and which ones wont, even when they take the same drugs. Some drugs can cause hair thinning or hair loss only on the scalp. Others can also cause;the thinning or loss of pubic hair, arm and leg hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes.
Radiation therapy to the head often causes scalp hair loss. Sometimes, depending on the dose of radiation to the head, the hair does not grow back the same as it was before.
If hair loss is going to happen, it most often starts within 1-3 weeks of treatment and becomes more noticeable 1 to 2 months after starting therapy. Your scalp may feel very sensitive to washing, combing, or brushing. But hair often starts to grow back even before treatment ends.
Read Also: What Foods Kill Breast Cancer Cells
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.
Questions To Ask The Doctor
- Do you know the stage of the cancer?
- If not, how and when will you find out the stage of the cancer?
- Would you explain to me what the stage means in my case?
- Based on the stage of the cancer, how long do you think Ill live?
- Do you know if my cancer has any of these proteins: estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, or the HER2 protein?
- What does it mean if my cancer has any of these proteins?
- What will happen next?
There are many ways to treat breast cancer.
Surgery and radiation are used to treat cancer in a specific part of the body . They do not affect the rest of the body.
Chemotherapy, hormone treatment,;targeted therapy, and immunotherapy drugs go through the whole body. They can reach cancer cells almost anywhere in the body.
Doctors often use more than one;treatment for breast cancer. The treatment plan thats best for you will depend on:
- The cancer’s stage and grade
- If the cancer has specific proteins, like the HER2 protein or hormone receptors
- The chance that a type of treatment will cure the cancer or help in some way
- Your age
- Other health problems you have
- Your feelings about the treatment and the side effects that come with it
Also Check: How Likely Is Breast Cancer To Come Back
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.
What Can I Do To Help Maintain My Weight And Build Strength
Along with taking any medicines your doctor prescribes, there are many things you can do to help your body stay strong. Good, balanced nutrition and proper hydration are very important:
Eat a balanced diet, and be sure to include protein to protect lean body mass. Beef, pork, poultry, tofu and soy nuts are excellent sources of protein. So are dairy products try some Greek yogurt, which is higher in protein than regular yogurt. For more information on nutrition during treatment, read CancerCares fact sheet title The Importance of Nutrition During Treatment.
Increase the number of calories you eat. Choose nutritious foods that you enjoy. If appetite is a problem, try eating smaller, more frequent meals; make milkshakes, smoothies, and purees, which may be easier to digest; and add milk or protein powder to your foods.
Drink plenty of liquids throughout the day. Water is best, but you can also get fluids from soups, popsicles and sports drinks.
Keep a journal. Keeping details of the side effects that you experience will help your health care team. Having a health care journal or notebook will allow you to keep all of your health information in one place. If you are experiencing constipation, it may be helpful to keep a journal detailing:
- Physical activities you do and how they affect your mood and energy level
- Your diet
- Fluid intake and type of fluid
- Medications youre currently taking
Also Check: How Do Doctors Treat Breast Cancer
About Hair Loss Or Hair Thinning
Hair loss is one of the most well known side effects of cancer treatment. For many people losing their hair can be distressing and devastating.
It can be a constant reminder of your cancer and what youre going through. But for most people, their hair will grow back once treatment has finished.
Cancer drugs can cause:
- mild thinning of your hair
- partial hair loss, or loss of patches of hair
- complete hair loss
Chemotherapy is the type of cancer drug treatment most likely to cause hair loss.
Complete hair loss is very unlikely with any other type of treatment. But some other cancer drugs can cause hair thinning. It is not possible to tell beforehand who will be affected or how badly.
Hair loss also depends on;factors such as:
- the type of drug or combination of drugs you are taking
- the dose
- the route
- how sensitive you are to the drug
- your drug treatment in the past