Temporary hair loss (alopecia) is the most common visible side effects of chemotherapy. Most patients undergoing chemo lose their hair from the treatment. The fact hair loss affects the appearance of the patient, it causes not only physical problems but also emotionaland behavioraldisturbances as well. In fact, alopecia is often the first sign indicating that an individual is undergoing chemo treatment. No one wants to lose their hair, both men and women. Although the loss is temporary, hair loss is the most fearful side effects of anti-cancer drugs.
Cancer cells divide and multiply rapidly and anarchically. Therefore, the main goal of chemo drugs is to damage or kill all cells that reproduce quickly. Hair follicle cells are among of the rapidly dividing cells in the body. Unfortunately, chemotherapy drugs cannot differentiate between these cells and cancer cells; they also damage cells of the hair follicles, causing hair loss.
Some patients start experiencing hair loss as early as the second week after the first treatment; others can wait until the second cycle of chemotherapy to start losing their hair. The hair can begin to fall suddenly or slowly; certain patients may lose all of their hair, other just some of it. In addition to the head, other parts of the body such as eyelashes, eyebrows and pubic area can also lose hair.
What You Can Do?
There are no effective treatments or prevention methods for chemotherapy-related hair loss.Tight bands or ice caps are used by some patients with no successful results. In fact, these techniques cause headaches in most users.
The good news is that from three to six months after the completion of the therapy the hair will resume growth after treatments without taking alopecia medications. In most people however, the new hair may have different color, texture or curl.
Although there is no treatment, you can take steps to control or reduce discomfort associated with baldness:
- Shave or Cut Hair – if you don’t lose your hair completely, you can cut your hair short or shave your head when the hair begins to fall out. Shaving your head can make the alopecia go unnoticed if you are a man.
- Wearing Caps and Scarves – this technique is the easiest and most comfortable mean to hide your hair loss problem. All over the internet, there are plenty of caps and scarves specially made for people undergoing chemotherapy.
- Wearing Wigs – purchasing a wig does not cost much, and you can find wigs made especially for chemo-related hair loss. In fact, before you even start the chemo you can purchase your wigs. In addition, some insurance companies will pay for a wig, as long as you have it written as a prescription from your doctor.
When to Call Your Doctor?
Hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy; there is no need to see a health care provider.