Hair Loss During Chemotherapy It is not bad enough that we have to undergo sometimes very unpleasant chemotherapy treatments for cancer, but it simply is not fair that we also have to undergo the indignity of losing all of our hair as well. Many people fear this common side effect of chemotherapy medication more then they fear the treatment itself. The good news is that the hair loss is not permanent
Medications are known to cause two types of hair loss, telogen effluvium, and anagen effluvium. Both of these types of hair loss are caused by interfering with the “life” cycle of hair. Hair basically has three phases during its normal life cycle. The first is a growing phase and it tends to last about 3-4 years. It is called the anagen phase. The next phase is the catagen phase. This part of the life cycle exists as a transitional phase to prepare the hair for the final stage, the telogen phase. During this third and last phase, the hair rests for about three months and then it falls out.
As you may have already guessed, both telogen effluvium and anagen effluvium are named after the part of the life cycle of the hair that they affect. In both cases they interfere with the respective phases of the life cycle, resulting in the loss of hair. Anagen effluvium causes the worst hair loss of the two. People frequently lose all their hair on their heads and much of it across their bodies. Unfortunately, this is the type of hair loss that chemotherapy medications cause.
Some of the newer chemotherapy medications do not cause any hair loss, but the drugs used most often do. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to avoid the hair loss that these medications cause. Many patients will cut or shave their hair well in advance of their treatment in order to better prepare themselves mentally. Usually, within about two to three weeks after the conclusion of the treatment, the hair will grow back.
When your hair grows back, frequently it will feel different and possibly be curlier than you are used to. This is a temporary situation, normally lasting, not longer than six months to a year. Your hair will return to its normal texture. During this time the scalp will tend to feel dry and itchy. Many people will use a moisturizer to help make it feel better. Most insurance will cover the cost of a wig or hairpiece if you would prefer to wear one while your hair grows back. Many people simply chose to wear a hat or scarf, or just go au naturel as a badge of honor for their battle with cancer.
Just try not to be too bothered by your hair loss. Everyone that goes through chemotherapy ultimately goes through this same unfortunate side effect. Fortunately, the side effect is temporary, and the chemotherapy is helping you to combat the disease so that you can live a long, prosperous life.