Cancer can be a
devastating disease that affects the mental and physical status of the sufferer
and that of the people that surround them. Just the emotional aspects of dealing
with this dreaded disease is enough to trigger hair loss even in the most
healthy. Unfortunately the radiation and most medications often required to
treat this life altering event will trigger a loss of hair. It is important to
recognize though that this type of hair loss is rarely permanent, does not
happen to everyone undergoing treatment, and can be a sign that the therapy is
achieving results. As a side note even the creators of Rogaine recognized that
even the minutest levels of stress can cause hair fallout. So you can imagine
the stress involved when a diagnosis of cancer is made. Just remember this is
often just one of lifeís temporary interruptions in you becoming better.
What Areas of the Body Are Affected?
Hair loss related to
chemotherapy can affect all parts of the body including the scalp, eyebrows,
beard, chest, back, legs, underarms, and genital regions. If the therapy is more
targeted which is often seen with radiation the loss of hair may be minimal.
With regard to the rate of loss it can be in clumps or gradual. Most hair that
is meant to fall out will cease within three weeks of ending therapy. Except in
rare situations most of your hair will have returned within nine months. In some
cases it can be curlier but many seem to believe it is more luxurious than when
they began treatment. This may be true in many situations because previously
damaged or chemically processed hair has now fallen out.
What to Expect
Many oncologists will alert
you as to what to expect in regards to hair loss prior to treatment. Just
remember their overall goal is in saving your life not preserving your vanity.
Todayís treatment goals do take into account that a person who feels they look
better is more responsive to therapy.
In deterring hair loss related
to chemotherapy and radiation one of the things doctors have learned is that
hair loss is less likely if the therapy is performed in the late afternoon or
evening. The reasoning behind this is the body will often react with tiredness
and sleepiness two to six hours after treatment. In other words if you perform
the treatment at a later hour the normal rest and renewal periods for the body
are less likely to be interrupted. Scientists feel much of this has to do with
the natural circadian rhythms of the body.
Scientists have also learned
that cold whether itís in the form of a cold shampoo and rinse, shower, or
cold cap before chemotherapy retards hair loss. These cold caps lower the scalp
temperature or slow the blood circulation thereby substantially reducing the
hair fall out in many cases.
Suggestion for Limiting Chemotherapy Induced Hair Loss
Many people in preparation for
cancer therapy procure a shorter haircut. This reduces the trauma and workload
of dealing with large clumps of hair on your pillows or blocking your drain
The use of silk or cotton
pillow cases greatly reduces the friction that is often associated with large
chunks of hair falling out all at once.
Use of a soft bristle hairbrush
lessens the pull on the individual tresses of the scalp.
Avoid harsh shampoos or those
containing harsh detergents. Look for milder scalp cleansers that can be used on
a daily basis. Plus try to avoid hair dryers and let your hair dry naturally.
Wigs and hairpieces can be an
excellent alternative costing anywhere from $100-$1000. Many insurance policies
now cover the price of hair replacement for cancer treatment. Plus youíll find
many well skilled professionals in this field who can advise you as to what your
exact needs will be. Many have treated quite a few people undergoing cancer
treatments. Just remember to check the limitations, exclusions, deductibles, and
maximum payouts of your insurance policies before heading in this direction. A
typical insurance company will pay 80% of the costs up to a maximum of $1000 if
a doctor has prescribed a hair prosthesis. Even if you arenít covered and the
doctor has prescribed it remember to get a receipt saying so because it is tax
Scarves, turbans, and hats can
also be an excellent choice for those who donít want to go through the fuss of
wigs. Plus itís a lot cheaper. Quite a few hats have built in wigs that few
will notice as you make a quick trip to the grocery or shopping center. In
regard to scarves and turbans many of the businesses who sell these items can
show you a variety of usability techniques that can disguise the details of what
you are experiencing.
Local chapters of the American
Cancer Society can also give you advice about looking and feeling better. Plus
they can refer you to local support groups.