Will My Hair Grow Back After Radiotherapy
Hair regrowth after radiotherapy will depend on lots of things, including the:
- type and dose of treatment
- number of treatments given
- area of your body affected.
Your radiographer can usually tell you before the treatment if your hair is likely to grow back.
If you have been told your hair will grow back, this can start once your skin has healed after treatment. Usually, your hair will start to grow back 3 to 6 months after finishing your treatment. But it may take longer if the treatment dose has been high. The hair that grows back may be thinner, patchy or a different colour.
Sometimes the hair loss is permanent. This can be especially upsetting if it affects the hair on your head. If you have hair loss on your head, you may want to wear a hairpiece, wig or some other type of headwear. It may also be possible to have a hair transplant.
Urinary And Bladder Changes
Radiation therapy to the pelvis can cause urinary and bladder problems by irritating the healthy cells of the bladder wall and urinary tract. These changes may start 35 weeks after radiation therapy begins. Most problems go away 28 weeks after treatment is over. You may experience:
- Burning or pain when you begin to urinate or after you urinate
- Trouble starting to urinate
- Bladder spasms, which are like painful muscle cramps
Ways to manage include:
- Drink lots of fluids. Aim for 68 cups of fluids each day, or enough that your urine is clear to light yellow in color.
- Avoid coffee, black tea, alcohol, spices and all tobacco products.
- Talk with your doctor or nurse if you think you have urinary or bladder problems. You may need to provide a urine sample to check for infection.
- Talk with your doctor or nurse if you have incontinence. He/she may refer you to a physical therapist to assess your problem. The therapist may recommend exercises to help you improve your bladder control.
- Your doctor may prescribe medications to help you urinate, reduce burning or pain, and ease bladder spasms.
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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Getting Through Hair Loss Following A Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Hair loss is something that some women who are diagnosed with breast cancer face. Hair can be a huge part of a persons identity, especially for a woman. The way your hair looks can communicate a lot to others about the type of person you are. Therefore, its understandable that losing your hair following a breast cancer diagnosis can add distress to an already devastating situation. In order to bring some relief and sense of control should you have to deal with hair loss, we outline why and when hair loss occurs as well as things that you can do to get through it.
Why it Happens
Chemotherapy is a type of breast cancer treatment that involves using chemicals to kill fast-growing cells such as tumors. Unfortunately, it may also target and kill non-tumorous cells such as hair follicles, leading to hair thinning or hair loss. Since hair follicles are found in different parts of the body, hair thinning or hair loss may occur not just on the scalp but for eyebrows, nose hair and body hair. Not all drugs lead to hair loss, which can also occur for a variety of reasons other than the drug being used. These factors include:1
Other drugs you may be taking
And individual differences
The drugs or combination of drugs you receive
While hair loss is most often associated with chemotherapy, it can also occur if you are being treated with radiation or hormones.
When it Happens
What to Do About It
Cutting Your Hair
Scarves, Hats and Wigs
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 Does Chemotherapy Cause Hair Loss
The reason chemotherapy can cause hair loss is that it targets all rapidly dividing cells healthy cells as well as cancer cells. Hair follicles, the structures in the skin from which hair grows, include some of the fastest-growing cells in the body. If you’re not in cancer treatment, cells in your hair follicles divide every 23 to 72 hours. But as chemotherapy does its work against cancer cells, it also damages hair follicle cells. Within a few weeks of starting certain chemotherapy medicines, you may lose some or all of your hair. The hair loss can happen gradually or fairly quickly.
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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Chemotherapy And Radiation: Why Should I Stop Coloring My Hair During Treatment
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?
How To Deal With Cancer
When you’re struggling with cancer, treatments and the challenges that come with a diagnosis, it may be difficult to adjust to hair loss and other changes to your body and appearance. But there are ways to prepare for and deal with hair loss when it occurs. Here are 12 ways to help cope with cancer-related hair loss:
Give yourself time. Losing your hair may be difficult to accept. It may take time to adjust to how you look, then more time to feel good about yourself again. Its okay to feel upset. At the same time, understand that losing your hair is usually temporary and hair will re-grow after you complete treatment.
Remember youre still you. Losing your hair and experiencing other physical changes brought on by cancer and its treatment may come as a shock. It may be disorienting to look in the mirror and not recognize yourself. Remember that youre still the same person on the inside. Try to celebrate who you are and focus on those qualities.
Prepare ahead for hair changes. Before you begin cancer treatment, prepare in advance for changes to your hair. Talk to your doctor about what to expect. Meet with a stylist who is familiar with cancer-related hair loss. Some people choose to wear head coverings, and others dont. Choose whatever feels most comfortable for you. It also helps to think about how you will respond to reactions from others.
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Vitamins To Avoid During Radiation Therapy
Your radiation oncologist may tell you to avoid taking certain antioxidant vitamin supplements, such as vitamins C, A, D, and E, while you’re having radiation therapy. These vitamins might interfere with radiation’s ability to destroy cancer cells.This is because radiation works in part by creating free radicals highly energized molecules that damage cancer cells. Free radicals in the environment can damage all cells, but in the case of radiation treatment they are focused on the cancer cells. Antioxidants help keep free radicals from forming or neutralize them if they do form.
Because of the potential conflict between the goal of radiation therapy and the goal of antioxidants , it makes sense to stop taking any antioxidant supplements during radiation therapy. When radiation is finished, you can resume taking your supplements.
Throughout your treatment, do your best to eat a well-balanced diet that contains all of the vitamins you need. Vitamins that come naturally from food are unlikely to interfere with treatment.
When Will I Begin To Lose My Hair
You may start to see your hair thin or fall out 1 to 4 weeks after your first chemotherapy treatment and 4 weeks after you receive radiation therapy.
The amount of hair that falls out or thins depends on the type, dose, and timing of your treatments. The speed at which it falls out also varies from person to person. You may first notice hair on your pillow in the morning or see it when you shower or brush your hair.
Some people will experience hair thinning rather than hair loss. Hair thinning is when your hair feels and looks thinner in texture. Talk with your healthcare team about what to expect after your chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
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What Side Effects Occur With Radiation Therapy To The Stomach And Abdomen
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.
Radiation Therapy Is Painful
Radiotherapy patients should not experience any pain during the procedure, although some report a sense of warmth or tingling. Because the treatment affects fast-reproducing cells, both healthy and cancerous, it can cause some pain later on, generally due to skin irritation in the treated area. For most patients, this is fairly mild. For other patients, radiation therapy can be paused for a few days to allow the skin and other healthy cells to recover before continuing.
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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.
Looking After Your Hair During Breast Cancer Treatment
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.
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.
What Side Effects Occur With Radiation Therapy To The Pelvis
If you are having radiation therapy to any part of the pelvis , you might have one or more of the digestive problems already described. You also may have some irritation to your bladder. This can cause discomfort or frequent urination. Drinking fluids can help relieve some of your discomfort. Your doctor can prescribe medication to deal with these problems.
There are also certain side effects that occur only in the reproductive organs. The effects of radiation therapy on sexual and reproductive functions depend on which organs are treated. Some of the more common side effects for both men and women do not last long after treatment. Others may be long-term or permanent. Before your treatment begins, ask your doctor about possible side effects and how long they might last.
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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.
Things To Know About Chemotherapy
We spoke with , to learn more. Heres what she had to say.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a group of medications that can shrink or destroy cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is used in a variety of ways. It may be given to rid the body of cancer, to shrink cancer so that surgery can be performed, or to control the disease and prolong someones life as long as possible.
How does chemotherapy work?
There are multiple types of chemotherapy, and each kind works a bit differently. In general, chemotherapy attacks rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells. Chemotherapy alters a cancer cells ability to grow or replicate itself. It can cause the cancer cell to die by not functioning properly or stop it from spreading by interfering with its ability to reproduce.
How are chemotherapy drugs usually given?
Most chemotherapy drugs are given through an IV, but some are injected into muscle, under the skin or directly into the spinal fluid. Other chemotherapy drugs can be swallowed in pill form.
Does chemotherapy hurt?
What are the most common side effects of chemotherapy?
Am I going to lose my hair?
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