Cancer, in some way or another, has touched us all. We are likely to know someone that has been given the diagnosis of cancer and has undergone chemotherapy as a treatment. One of the side effects of chemotherapy can be hair loss. The traumatic experience of being diagnosed with cancer followed by the side effect of losing hair can be utterly distressing.
While hair loss can be one of the most upsetting side effects of treatment, hair lost from chemotherapy does grow back.
Why does chemotherapy cause hair loss?
Chemotherapy means a chemical agent is being used, usually intravenously. These chemicals are given to destroy cancer cells, but these drugs can have a toxic effect on other parts of your body and can disrupt many natural cycles including your natural hair growth cycle.
Chemotherapy can cause your hair to skip the normal shedding (telogen) phase and instead fall out excessively in the hairs’ growing (anagen) phase. Typically hair follicles divide every 48-72 hours but during chemotherapy treatment the drugs may also destroy this process temporarily. Some drugs cause less hair loss than others, some drugs cause hair loss over the entire body including eye brows and arm pits. Some chemo treatments do not cause hair loss at all.
What are some ways of coping with hair loss?
Coping with hair loss from chemotherapy is different for everyone. Some choose to shave their head before any hair loss to gain a sense of control. Women with long styles may choose to adopt a shorter style where hair loss is less visible which may be easier emotionally.
At Images International, we offer scarves, caps and wigs designed especially for hair loss due to medical reasons. Wigs can look very natural and we offer a wide range of styles, colors and textures. Images International participates in the Recover with Confidence program and we even work with your insurance to see if you have available coverage for a prosthesis during your time of treatment.
Wearing wigs will not inhibit hair growth and Images offers the softest materials that allow your scalp to breathe and feel comfortable. Having a wig or scarf to put on is a great way to boost morale on days you may feel it is a struggle to blend in.
What can I expect after chemotherapy treatment?
Hair almost always grows back after chemotherapy treatment. It is not uncommon, however, for hair to grow back differently. Your hair may change its color, shape and texture. It may start as fine hair and transition into fuller hair as time goes on. If your hair starts growing in fine it is likely that your follicles will eventually produce mature hairs.
As soon as your hair has grown back, Images International will continue to work with you on safe products to use and you can start conditioning and styling your hair as usual. Working with our trained compassionate stylists who know and understand your situation can be very helpful and reassuring. Great care should be taken initially when styling to avoid pulling or breaking the fine new hairs.
You may continue coloring your hair but we suggest doing a skin patch test to ensure your body tolerates the chemical ingredients. Even if you did not experience problems before chemotherapy, occasionally sensitivities arise after treatment.
You can also perm and highlight your hair as before. We suggest a strand test on your first treatment. A new formula may be required because even though it’s still your hair, it may act differently than it did before.
If you’re in a hurry to get the growth started we recommend our Low Level Laser Light Therapy. You can circulate, stimulate and increase blood flow to your scalp using our cool touch laser. Your follicles are ready to grow hair and you can encourage them with the laser therapy, scalp masks, topical treatments, and a nutritious diet. For more information on these treatments contact our office.