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Does Your Hair Fall Out If You Have Breast Cancer

What Side Effects Occur With Radiation Therapy To The Stomach And Abdomen

How I Found Out I Have Cancer and My Leopard Head

If you are having radiation treatment to the stomach or some portion of the abdomen, you may experience an upset stomach, nausea or diarrhea. Your doctor can prescribe medicines to relieve these problems. Do not take any home remedies during your treatment unless you first check with your doctor or nurse.

When You Have Hair Loss

  • If youre going to buy a wig, try on different styles until you find one you really like. Consider buying 2 wigs, one for everyday use and one for special occasions.
  • Synthetic wigs need less care and styling than human hair wigs. They also cost less and may be easier to manage if your energy is low during cancer treatment.
  • Some people find wigs are hot or itchy, and use turbans or scarves instead. Cotton fabrics tend to stay on a smooth scalp better than nylon or polyester.
  • If your hair becomes very thin or is completely gone during treatment, be sure to protect the skin on your scalp from heat, cold, and the sun. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30 and a hat. In cold weather, wear a hat or scarf to cover and stay warm.
  • Your scalp may feel itchy or sensitive. Be gentle when brushing and washing your hair. Using a wide-toothed comb may help.
  • Hair loss might be somewhat reduced by avoiding too much brushing or pulling .
  • Wear a hair net at night, or sleep on a satin pillowcase to keep hair from coming out in clumps. Be gentle with eyelashes and eyebrows, which might also be affected.
  • When new hair starts to grow, it may break easily at first. Avoid perms and dyes for the first few months. Keep hair short and easy to style.
  • Your new hair may be curlier or straighter, thicker or fineror even a new color. Usually this change is short term with time your hair will very likely go back to the way it was before treatment.

Does Cancer Cause Hair Loss

It iswidely assumed that if you have cancer, you will eventually lose all your hair.But is cancer itself the hair-loss culprit? The answer is no.

Alopecia,or hair loss, occurs as a secondary result of chemotherapy and radiationtreatment. Both chemotherapy and radiation attack the rapidly growing cancercells in your body. The treatment may also attack other normal, fast-growingcells, like the cells in your hair roots.

Although many chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss, its a myth that all cancer patients receiving treatment will experience alopecia. The severity of your hair loss will vary depending on which medications youre taking, the drug dosage, and the frequency of treatment. While some patients experience only a mild thinning of hair, others may have more severe complications. Other types of treatment, such as radiation, will only cause hair loss on the area being treated.

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Coping With Other People’s Reactions To Hair Loss

You may feel that losing your hair means that you will need to tell people about your diagnosis when you would prefer not to, however, its up to you who you tell. Some people tell just their family and close friends, while others are happy to let everyone know.

People will respond to you losing your hair in different ways, and you may find some reactions difficult to understand.

A change in appearance may make you feel less confident about socialising with friends and family. However, withdrawing from your social life may make you feel more isolated or that your diagnosis is preventing you from doing the things you enjoy. Many people find continuing to meet up with others is a useful distraction and helps to keep some normality.

You may feel anxious about other peoples reactions at first, but these feelings should gradually improve over time. It might help to talk to others who have experienced hair loss.

If you have children, whatever their age, you may wonder what to tell them about your breast cancer. Your children may find it upsetting to see you without any hair and it might help if you prepare them for the fact that this may happen. Studies have shown that children are less anxious if they know whats happening, and that it can be less frightening for them to know what is going on even if they dont fully understand. Read our tips about talking to children about breast cancer.

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Chemotherapy And Radiation: Why Should I Stop Coloring My Hair During Treatment

Chemotherapy and Coping With Hair Loss

Isabel Calleros explains why you should stop coloring your hair during chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Isabel Calleros:During the time that you are going through radiation or chemotherapy its recommended, strongly recommended that you dont add more chemicals to your body, okay?

Now theres no proven fact that bleaching the hair penetrates into the skin or dyes penetrate into the skin, but why take the risk?

Dyes usually contain aniline derivative tints which are strong chemical. The pH of those chemicals are a lot stronger than what our natural skin and hair are accustomed to, and unfortunately we are going to lose some of our hair or all of our hair, so why add to the problem?

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Hair Loss Thinning And Cancer Treatment

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

Its 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.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Most breast cancers arise spontaneously, with no identifiable cause. Around five per cent of Australian breast cancer cases are hereditary, meaning the patient carries an inherited breast cancer risk gene, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2. This puts them at elevated risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Other factors that increase a persons risk of developing breast cancer include:

  • Gender: females are at a much higher risk developing breast cancer, but breast cancer can occur in men
  • Older age: like many cancers, the risk of developing breast cancer increases with age – about 80% arise after age 50
  • Exposure of breast cells to female hormones
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Exposure to high doses of radiation

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Radiation Therapy Side Effects

The side effects of radiation therapy depend on the type of radiation therapy youre having. In general, the side effects tend to develop as treatment goes on and may be more troubling toward the end of treatment. Overall, the most common side effects are redness, swelling, and skin peeling in the area being treated. Read more about radiation therapy side effects.

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Looking After Your Hair During Breast Cancer Treatment

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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.

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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. Whatâs 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.
  • Donât use hair dryers, hot rollers, or curling irons because they may damage your hair and make hair loss more severe.
  • Donât bleach or color your hair, and donât 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.

/ When Will My Hair Start To Fall Out

Generally hair loss sets in 2 to 3 weeks after the first course of chemotherapy. Some people lose their hair gradually, while others immediately start to lose hair in large quantities. By their second course of chemotherapy, most people are already wearing a wig, scarf or hat. Tip! Dont wait until your hair starts to fall out to find some chemotherapy headwear. It is a good idea to look for a wig or chemo scarves and hats before starting your chemo. Go to specialised hairdresser for a wig. You can buy chemo scarves, hats and headscarves in specialised shops, such as our Rosette la Vedette online store. Online shopping is easy because you can shop from the comfort of your own home. And during your chemo treatments you can easily order additional chemo hats and scarves in your favourite colours from your easy chair.

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What About Other Treatments That I Hear About

When you have cancer you might hear about other ways to treat the cancer or treat your symptoms. These may not always be standard medical treatments. These treatments may be vitamins, herbs, special diets, and other things. You may wonder about these treatments.

Some of these are known to help, but many have not been tested. Some have been shown not to help. A few have even been found to be harmful. Talk to your doctor about anything youre thinking about using, whether its a vitamin, a diet, or anything else.

Hair Loss And Other Radiation Side Effects

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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.

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Hair Thinning/loss From Hormone Therapy Drug Letrozole

I have been on Letrozole for nearly a month and my hair is changing and thinning badly, which I find distressing. The worst thing is that I could be on this drug for 5-10 yrs . Was trying to mentally prepare for the chemotherapy and the side effects and thinking , look on bright side , after the chemotherapy my hair will grow back.

Has anybody got experience of the side effect of this drug and advice.

Hi Maria,

I was put on the hormone drug Zoladex for my prostate cancer and had more side effects from this than I ever did from the radiotherapy. Hot flushes being the most common. I used to have a contest with my wife and I was way in front both for the amount and for the severity. I also suffered mood swings where if I heard bad or even good news, I would end up with tears running down my face and I had no control over it which I found very embarassing. I also put on weight which I have not managed to lose even though I finnised treatment about four years ago.

So I do understand what your going through. Wishing you all the best, Brian.

Hormonal And Targeted Therapies

Some people notice that their hair becomes thinner while taking a hormonal therapy or targeted therapy. This is usually mild and the hair grows back at the end of treatment. If you have a beard, you may notice that you have less beard growth.

You may notice that the hair on your head and body is finer, curlier or more brittle. Each therapy has different possible side effects.

Any hair loss from hormonal or targeted therapies nearly always grows back once you have finished treatment. Your doctor can advise you about the type of drug you are taking.

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Why Hair Loss Occurs

Hair loss can occur as a result of how the chemotherapy drugs work. Cancer cells have a high mitotic rate . Chemotherapy works by targeting these rapidly dividing cells and killing them.

Unfortunately, hair follicles also divide rapidly, and chemotherapy drugs are unable to distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells with similar high mitotic rates. As a result, certain “good” cells will be killed alongside “bad” ones, often including those of your hair.

Hair Loss And Regrowth After Chemotherapy

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Losing your hair during chemotherapy is not easy, but it can be easier to cope with if you have a better idea of what to expect.

Heres what cancer medical professionals and survivors told The Patient Story worked for them.

Contributing perspectives in this resource come from multiple cancer patients as well as Dr. Doug Blayney of Stanford Medical Center.

Hair Loss Background

When does hair fall out after chemo and how long does it take to grow back?

This varies person to person. Generally speaking, hair loss caused by chemotherapy happens around two to four weeks after the start of treatment or around the start of your second chemotherapy cycle. Often people may find they start losing their hair in clumps during a shower, while brushing hair, or discover it on their pillow after sleep.

The extent and pace of hair loss depends on a number of treatment factors, such as the type of chemo drug, dosage, frequency of treatments, and how the chemo is administered.

Be sure to ask your doctor and/or nurse about your chemotherapy regimen and whether its known to cause hair loss.

For the most part, thankfully, chemotherapy does not cause permanent hair loss. In rare cases, however, some higher-dose radiation therapy targeting the head may result in permanent hair loss.

Will hair look the same when it regrows after chemo?

Styling & Solutions

When should I cut my hair or shave my head?
Can cold caps or cooling caps prevent or lessen hair loss?
What kind of wigs are there?

Other FAQs

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What Can I Do To Prepare Myself

If you are having a chemotherapy treatment that is likely to make you lose your hair, there are things you can do to prepare yourself.

Hair usually starts to fall out about two to three weeks after the first chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy hair loss is usually quick and happens over a couple of days.

You may decide to shave your head when your hair starts falling out. The advantage of this is that it keeps the mess to a minimum and gets the process over with. Some hairdressers have a private room where they can shave your head in private, or you may like to ask your hairdresser if she or he would come to your place for a private visit.

Alternatively, you may prefer to wear a scarf, cap or turban until most of your hair has fallen out and then shave what is left.

If you have children, its a good idea to let them know that you might lose your hair so they can be prepared as well.

Talking With Your Health Care Team About Hair Loss

Prepare for your visit by making a list of questions to ask. Consider adding these questions to your list:

  • Is treatment likely to cause my hair to fall out?
  • How should I protect and care for my head? Are there products that you recommend? Ones I should avoid?
  • Where can I get a wig or hairpiece?
  • What support groups could I meet with that might help?
  • When will my hair grow back?

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