It's Not "Just" Hair - Why Hair Loss During Cancer Treatment Can Be So Difficult

It's Not "Just" Hair - Why Hair Loss During Cancer Treatment Can Be So Difficult

Posted by Jane Elliott on

It's not "just" hair

Coping with hair loss from cancer can be very challenging for any individual. People receiving certain cancer treatments may lose all or part of their hair, most frequently in clumps while shampooing or brushing. People commonly experience sadness about hair loss. Knowing that hair grows back and that you may take action to make hair loss less of an issue for you is helpful. 


The most challenging side effects of cancer therapies aren't always physical. However, hair loss may be among the most upsetting side effects of cancer treatment for certain patients. You could feel exposed as a "cancer patient" and vulnerable if you have hair loss. It could be another obvious indication that your life has changed, which can make you feel down and angry. Additionally, you could be asked questions by others for which you are not yet prepared. For some people, the prospect of hair loss may aggravate their sense of helplessness following a cancer diagnosis. However, it also offers a chance to mentally get ready for hair loss and take action to handle it before it comes. It is helpful to understand the causes of hair loss and how to deal with it when it happens.


What causes cancer patients to lose their hair? 

Killing rapidly dividing cancer cells is the focus of chemotherapy. However, certain healthy cells in the body, such as those that line the mouth and stomach and those found in hair follicles are also the same type of cell so, as a result, alopecia may happen due to some cancer therapies. Alopecia is hair loss from the scalp or elsewhere on the body, due to some chemotherapy medications harming the healthy, quick-growing cells in charge of hair development. Hair loss does not always happen immediately away, it often starts two weeks after beginning chemotherapy and can worsen over the next two months. When it comes to radiation treatment, hair loss often begins in the treated region up to three weeks following the initial radiation treatment.


Who loses their hair? 

Not everyone who receives cancer treatment will have hair loss. In reality, the adverse effects of hair loss in two people taking the same medicine may vary. While one patient may have hair loss, another may not. The kind, dose, frequency, and technique of therapy, along with other unique characteristics, all affect how much hair is lost if alopecia does occur. While the hair may occasionally fall out, it may also get thin, lifeless, and dry. Hair loss can happen suddenly, gradually, in clumps, or completely.

Additionally, the scalp may first feel sensitive or itchy. Most hair loss is transient, and hair will regrow when cancer treatment is over. After chemotherapy or radiation treatment, hair often comes back three to six months later. Occasionally, hair regrowth starts even before therapy is finished. It's typical for hair to first regrow with a slightly different colour and texture. Drugs used to treat baldness, including minoxidil, have not consistently been shown to lessen or stop hair loss by cancer therapy. Cooling caps, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved for some patients, may occasionally aid in shielding hair cells from chemotherapy medications. The purpose of cooling caps is to reduce cellular activity in the hair follicles, which makes them a less probable target for chemotherapy medications, and to constrict cells, which makes it more difficult for the chemicals to enter.


How to handle hair loss caused by cancer:

It may be challenging to cope with hair loss and other physical and aesthetic changes while dealing with cancer, therapies, and the difficulties that come with a diagnosis. However, there are strategies to prevent and manage hair loss when it does. These coping strategies might assist with hair loss brought on by cancer:


Acknowledge your feelings

It could be difficult to accept losing your hair. It could take time to get used to how you appear before you start to feel confident about yourself again. So it's acceptable to be upset. At the same time, keep in mind that hair loss is often just temporary and that it will come back after your treatment is through.


Understand that you are still you

It may be unexpected to lose your hair and other bodily changes brought on by cancer and its treatment. It might seem strange when you glance in the mirror and can't place yourself. However, keep in mind that you remain the same on the inside. Celebrate who you are and pay attention to your best traits.


Plan for any hair changes 

Be ready for changes to your hair before you start cancer treatment. First, talk to your doctor about what to expect. Meet with a stylist who is knowledgeable in hair loss caused by cancer. For example, some individuals wear head coverings, while others do not. Pick whatever gives you the most comfort. It also helps to consider your responses to other people's reactions.


Consider wearing a hat

Before hair loss starts, consider getting a wig, hairpiece, or other headwear (such as turbans, caps, scarves, hats, or head wraps). If you buy a wig, look for a specialty store that offers styles and colours that complement your natural hair. In addition, some aid or insurance programs could contribute to defraying the cost.


Before treatment, trim your hair short

You might choose to have a short hairdo before starting cancer treatment if you have long hair. If your hair is already short, it might not be as shocking or upsetting when hair starts to come out. Cutting your hair may also give you the impression that you are in charge. Once hair starts to fall out, some people shave their heads to avoid itching or irritation of the scalp.


Take care of your hair 

Use a gentle, light shampoo and a wide-toothed comb with soft bristles (but limit washing). The scalp needs specific attention since it can become dry and irritated. Dry hair gently with a soft cloth. Using hairpins, elastic bands, barrettes, and clips that tug on your hair should be minimized. As new hair fills in, it could be fragile and brittle and will need extra care.


Play up your strengths 

Investigate strategies to improve your look so that you may feel confident in yourself. Purchase fresh clothing and cosmetics to highlight your best attributes. Maintain healthy skin and nails. Choose eyebrow pencils and eyeliners that are the same colour as your natural hair colour or a shade lighter if your eyebrows and eyelashes begin to fall out.


Uphold a healthy way of living 

It's crucial to maintain a nutritious diet, drink enough water, and frequently exercise if you want to look and feel better about yourself. Consult your doctor about choosing a healthy lifestyle. You could get assistance from a dietician in creating a healthy meal plan and from a physical therapist in creating a unique exercise schedule.


Create a network of support

Discuss the difficulties of hair loss with your family and friends. A cancer support group is also a fantastic place to connect with others experiencing hair loss. In this situation, you can pick up tips and pointers on how others handle changes in their physical appearance. A consultation with a psychologist or counsellor could also be beneficial.


Always remember that things will improve, and your hair will grow back.
Brighter Day's ideas come from a desire to develop an optimistic viewpoint for those who share the same experience. It has been specifically created for the person, not the patient.

Browse our colourful, practical apparel collection on our website, to feel at ease and supported while undergoing cancer treatment.

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