Hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiation therapy because these treatments target cells in the body that grow very rapidly—a characteristic of cancer cells and hair cells. You may lose hair anywhere on the body and hair loss usually begins two to three weeks after your first treatment.
Chemotherapy causes more hair loss on the head and in the pubic area. Radiation therapy causes hair loss in the area receiving radiation. Whether you will experience hair loss depends upon the type of chemotherapy or the intensity of the radiation.
What You Should Know About Hair Loss from Chemotherapy and Radiation
- Your scalp may be tender before the hair begins to fall out.
- Your hair should start to grow back within four to six weeks after the last dose of chemotherapy.
- Hair may take longer to grow back after radiation treatment.
- Trying to prevent hair loss during treatment is not effective and is not advised.
- After treatment, your hair may reappear with a different color and/or texture.
- Permanent hair loss is very rare.
What Can I Do Before My Hair Falls Out?
- Visit a hair stylist or wig store before treatment begins. This may help you feel more prepared to manage hair loss.
- Use a soft-bristle brush or wide-toothed comb.
- Avoid braiding or pulling hair into a ponytail, which can increase hair loss.
- Consider having your children help you cut your hair. This may help them better adapt to the change.
Other Helpful Suggestions
- Use a head covering for protection from sun, wind, and cold.
- Use sunscreen on your scalp.
- Use a soft, satiny pillowcase.
- Avoid hair treatments or chemicals on the scalp.
- Share your thoughts and feelings with a loved one or in a support group.
- Learn more in brochure Wig, Head Cover, and Beauty Resources.
Look Good. . .Feel Better
The Linda B. and Robert B. Wiggins Wellness-Survivorship Center offers a free class called Look Good…Feel Better in partnership with the American Cancer Society. In these classes, licensed cosmetologists teach beauty techniques to help those going through cancer treatment boost self-image and cope with physical side effects of treatment. Call the Wellness Center at 801-587-4585 for more information.
Diseases and Conditions
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