Chemotherapy, although a life saving medication, wreaks havoc on patients who are prescribed it. Chemo patients experience a wide range of side effects but one of the most obvious is complete hair loss, including the eyelashes and eyebrows. For many cancer sufferers this common side effect is very concerning and they would prefer to avoid it if at all possible.
Not all chemotherapy drugs will cause patients to lose hair, but many of them do, and in varying degrees ranging from gradual thinning of the hair to clumps falling away. It’s important to discuss chemotherapy medications with your doctors to know what to expect and be fully aware of what you are up against.
Chemotherapy Hair Loss is Not Permanent
In the vast majority of cases, baldness caused by chemotherapy treatments is not permanent. Once the course of treatment has been completed your hair will regain normal growth and before long your locks will return, although this may seem thinner at first.
Occasionally, as a result of extremely high doses of certain drug combinations hair loss from chemo will be permanent. While this is not often the case should it occur it could be treated with hair transplants, hair weaves and other treatments.
While you can’t control whether or not your hair falls out during chemotherapy, you help to minimise the effects and keep you scalp and hair follicles in the best shape possible so that after treatment your hair growth is quick and healthy.
Tips For Hair Care During Treatment
There are many things you can do to ease the strain on your hair during chemotherapy treatments and being proactive could help you retain more hair throughout your treatment as well as stimulate new growth after treatment.
Cut your hair shorter
Before you begin your treatment, it is a good idea to get a new haircut that is short and easy to maintain. This will make any hair loss less noticeable. It also avoids putting unnecessary pulling or strain on the hair through ponytails, plaits and other tight hairstyles.
Protect your scalp
You can avoid causing further damage to your scalp and hair follicles by properly caring for them during treatment. If you do lose your hair it’s a good idea to ensure you never go out without some sort of protection for the scalp – whether that is sunscreen, a hat or a scarf. In addition, it is a good idea to keep the scalp well moisturised and as healthy as possible for when hair regrowth begins. Protecting your head from extreme elements such as harsh cold temperatures and the sun is critical.
Consider other options
Some patients have used the “scalp cooling” method, where a cold gel filled cap is placed over the head. The intention is that the blood vessels to the scalp are narrows and the amount of medicine reaching the hair follicles is reduced, resulting in less hair loss during treatment.
Maximise your dietary impact
Our diets have a huge impact on our hair growth and loss. While you cannot control hair loss as a result of chemotherapy, eating well and ensuring you are taking in enough protein, vitamins and minerals means you can reduce the amount of hair lost and the speed it grows back.
Whether you are struggling with hair loss after chemotherapy has ended, or want to know what options you have should your treatment damage your hair in the long-term, talking to a professional such as our experienced trichologists will give you the opportunity to find out how any permanent loss could be treated.