10 / 04 / 16

Dealing with Hair Loss After Chemotherapy

When your body undergoes cancer treatment you not only endure a tremendous shock physically, but also on a mental and psychological level. In addition, treatment brings with it numerous physical changes to your body. Several of the chemotherapy drugs used during cancer treatment cause hair loss. Chemotherapy drugs work by attacking the actively dividing cancer cells, but they also attack other actively growing cells in the body, like those in your hair follicles. These drugs cause hair thinking, hair fall out or even complete baldness depending on the type of drug used, the dosage and the duration of use, etc. Fortunately, once the chemo sessions are finished, hair starts to grow back within a few months. However, with radiotherapy, there’s a chance that hair loss may be permanent or patchy. On top of the tremendous stress of battling cancer, losing your hair can be a confounding strain as hair is so strongly associated with one’s self-image and beauty. Strong support from family and friends can help ease this phase, however there are also certain options available for cancer survivors.

Some people opt for wigs during the course of cancer treatment, some shave their head or go bald as a symbol of their fight against cancer. Here are a few more possibilities:

Scalp Ice Caps: These are caps that are lined with a gel that is usually refrigerated and chilled. This is applied to the scalp 40-50 minutes before chemotherapy begins so that blood flow to the scalp is sluggish and chemo drugs do not actively flow there. This in turn, prevent hair from falling out. This procedure is not available in all hospitals so you’ll want to check with your doctor ahead of time.

Hair Replacement: A type of high-end toupee, it has a mesh base that is designed after taking the dimensions of the head and it’s color coordinated to the skin tone. Human hair is then tied to the mesh with special knots in a way that makes it appear like hair is growing out of the mesh base. The base is then fitted to the head.

Hair Transplantation: If there are patchy areas of hair loss after finishing cancer treatment or if the thinning hair seems permanent, hair transplant may be the solution. There are 2 types of transplants available; 1) FUT where a strip of scalp is removed from the back of the head and the hair grafts are dissected out and implanted or 2) FUE where individual grafts are removed with the help of a monitor and then implanted.

Minoxidil: Though it may not help during the process of chemo, it will help hair grow back much quicker after finishing treatment. Minoxidil is a solution that is applied directly to the scalp to stimulate hair follicles and can be used for both men and women. This solution general works best on the crown area compared to the frontal region. However, caution needs to be taken when applied because it can cause unwanted hair growth to the face or neck if applied there. You may have to continue use for a long period as stopping the application has often been linked to increased hair loss.

Finasteride: Taken in pill form, this promotes hair growth by blocking the action of natural hormones in scalp hair and reducing hair loss. At the moment this drug is only approved for use by men with androgenic hair loss and by post-menopausal women.

Hair Care: The methods above can help with hair loss but gentle hair care can also contribute to better growth. Using mild shampoo, brushing less vigorously and avoiding chemical treatments like perming, straightening and coloring all play a role. Try to minimize use of heat styling and keep hair short so that it looks fuller.

Looking for options to manage hair loss? Contact us today for a free consultation.