Chemotherapy drugs are powerful medicines that are designed to attack the rapidly growing cancer cells in the body. However, unfortunately, these medicines can also attack other cells in your body, including those in the hair roots. Chemo can often cause hair loss all over the body, not just on the scalp. Sometimes the eyelashes, eyebrows, armpit hair, other body hair also fall out during chemo. Some chemo treatments are more likely to cause hair loss than others, and the different amount of doses also affect the severity of damage to the hair root cells. Hair loss can be a source of stress. Here are seven things you need to know about hair loss from chemotherapy, and how to manage it.
Not every chemo causes hair loss
There are some types of chemotherapy, which are more likely to not cause a hair loss. Depending upon the kind of treatment you are taking, your doctor will advise if hair loss is a common side effect of the medications you’ve been prescribed or not. Mostly, hair loss starts within two to four weeks after your chemo begins. The actual degree of hair loss varies, depending on the dose and kind of medicine used as part of your treatment.
Don’t worry, they will come back!
Hair loss from chemotherapy is temporary, and not a permanent side-effect. Typically, your hair should start growing back within three to six weeks of finishing treatment or maybe even during the treatment. Treat them gently to help your hair grow back stronger. During the early stages of hair growth, avoid coloring or bleaching them; limit the use of hair dryers and other heating devices. Take good care of your hair so that they’re lustrous and strong once they come back. Do note, once your hair grows back, they might be slightly different in color or texture than before. Such differences are generally temporary and need not be a point of concern.
It may not be prevented, but suppressed
No such treatment actually exists which can guarantee that your hair won’t fall out during chemotherapy. However, there have been some ways discovered through which, hair fall can be suppressed. Wearing a scalp cooling cap during chemotherapy is one such method. The caps are closely fitted on your head and cooled by a chilled liquid to slow down the blood flow to your scalp. This way, the chemo medicines are less likely to affect your hair adversely. This method has been found to be quite effective in many people, but at the same time has its own demerits too. Many people have complained of feeling uncomfortably cold and having severe headaches as a result of these cooling caps.
Looks can make the difference
If you’re about to begin with chemo or have already begun, prepare yourself for the possibilities of hair loss, and also plan your looks so that there is a lower visual impact on your looks once the hair loss begins. Your scalp often looks fuller with shorter hair than longer hair. As a result, your hair loss might not be as noticeable if you keep your hair short. You can also try wigs or scarves and hats to keep your scalp covered. There are a lot of options you can go for to maintain your looks and not really feel bad about going through a hair loss. You already know it is temporary, so don’t stress yourself out and try some cool wigs, hats, or other gear while you recover from cancer. Try on different styles till you find one that suits you the best.
During Chemo – Take Extra Care of your Scalp & Hair
Take extra care your remaining hair as much as possible during your chemo treatment. Use a softer hair brush, shampoo your hair only as often as necessary, and using a mild or baby shampoo. You need to protect your hair and treat them like a baby’s hair are treated. Many times, shaving your head can also be a good option. People often complain that they feel itchy, sensitive, and irritated during their treatments. Shaving the head can reduce the irritation. However, do protect your scalp with sunscreen or a head covering, as it might be exposed to cold air or direct sunlight. Your scalp might be sensitive to such things and can cause irritation.
It’s quite likely that your hair will come back rather slowly and that they may not look the same right away. But hair growth takes its own sweet time, and it also takes up time to repair the kind of damage caused by chemo. It is important to be patient and hold on to your nerves.
It’s alright to be upset
Chemotherapy related hair-loss can affect different people in different ways. For some, it can be a distressing factor. If you are finding it difficult to cope up with your hair loss or other side effects of chemotherapy, consider joining a support group or taking up counselling sessions for people with cancer. This can give you the opportunity to speak about your experiences and at the same time learn from other people who are facing similar challenges.
Hair loss is one of the most common side effects of many chemotherapy treatments, but there are many effective ways to prepare for it and manage it. Your doctor will explain it to you whether you should expect to experience hair loss as a result of your treatment or not. If it is an expected side effect, you must consider how you want to handle it, and consider it well. Explore your options and choose the ones that feel right for you. Hair loss can cause some real stress and preparing for it helps you respond positively to the treatment.