Sunday, November 4, 2007

Preventing and coping with hair loss (chemotherapy and hair loss)

This is another great article i found on the net about chemotherapy and hair loss,
Enjoy reading!

Preventing and coping with hair loss

How does chemotherapy affect your hair?

Chemotherapy often causes hair loss otherwise known as Alopecia. This is because the cells in the hair follicles grow fast and chemotherapy damages fast growing cells. (see what is chemotherapy). Hair loss is not permanent and it will grow back once your treatment has ended. Not all drugs cause hair loss - Some just cause thinning and others cause dramatic hair loss including the body hair and eye brows. Furthermore, different people have different tolerances to the drugs. Occasionally, some people loose their hair when it is not expected and sometimes in other cases no hair loss occurs when it is expected. (See table below for a list of chemotherapy drugs likely to cause hair loss)

Hair loss can start any time from after the first few days after chemotherapy to within a few weeks. However, your hair will grow back once treatment is complete although to start with your hair will grow back very fine, very like a babies hair. Your clinic nurse can arrange for you to have a wig before your treatment starts . After three to six months you should have regained a full head of hair although it may be slightly different to before your treatment in terms of colour and texture.

Prevention of hair loss

Not everyone can tolerate wearing the cold cap as it can feel very cold. This discomfort varies from patient to patient so it is not a failure if you can't wear it and it has no influence on the outcome of your treatment. In other clinical trials to date, less than 2% of patients who had retained their hair did not continue with the procedure.

While cold caps may be effective in preventing hair loss for some chemotherapy drugs they are not successful for all drugs. Your doctor or nurse will be able to advise you.

The cold cap system
How it works?

Studies have shown that scalp cooling is effective in preventing hair loss in patients treated with some chemotherapy drugs. Cooling the scalp to a temperature of +17 oC to achieve a subcutaneous temperature of +20 0C (68 oF) constricts the blood supply to hair follicles diminishing or abolishing their perfusion hence preventing high chemotherapy dose delivery during the initial phase of chemotherapy. Further, coldness itself reduces the availability of (chemotherapy) cytotoxic drugs to the cells of the hair follicles by directly reducing their metabolic rate. It is the combined effect of both these mechanisms, induced by cooling the scalp, that prevents or reduces hair loss (alopecia).

How effective is it?

The cold cap system works better for some drugs than others. Some clinical trials show a success rate of up to 85% with:-

Docetaxel (taxotere) Epirubicin

Paclitaxel (Taxol) Cyclophosphamide.

Coping with hair loss

The cold cap may not work with all drugs or may not be tolerated. Here are some tips from patients to help you cope with hair loss if it does occur. Hair loss can occur at varying degrees and to different parts of the body depending on the type or combination of drugs used:

* baldness may be temporary, partial or total

* you may lose eyebrows, eyelashes, body and pubic hair

* you may not lose any hair at all

Hair loss can start any time from after the first few days after chemotherapy to within a few weeks. However, your hair will grow back once treatment is complete although to start with your hair will grow back very fine, very like a babies hair. Your clinic nurse can arrange for you to have a wig before your treatment starts . After three to six months you should have regained a full head of hair although it may be slightly different to before your treatment in terms of colour and texture.

Radiotherapy and hair loss

Hair loss can also occur after you have had radiotherapy, again as a result of damaged hair follicles. However, you will only loose hair from the area being treated with radiotherapy. This hair lose is usually temporary and your hair will regrow completely after your treatment. However, the speed and thickness of this regrowth is dependent on the length treatment and the quantity of radiotherapy you received. On average it takes between six and twelve months after you have finished your treatment. If your hair does not regrow or comes back very patchy, wearing a wig is a possibility.

Practical Advice

You can ease the pull of long hair on your scalp by having it cut into a shorter style before you undergo treatment.

* Avoid using harsh chemicals and shampoo on your hair as these can cause the scalp to become dry and itchy. Try switching to gentler products. Do not perm you hair for at least six months after your treatment. If your scalp does become too dry you can gently massage it with a light moisturizer.

* Use a soft hairbrush to prevent irritating your scalp if it is tender.

* Avoid nylon pillowcases as they can irritate the scalp. Use cotton as an alternative.

* Wherever possible, let your hair dry naturally as hairdryers and rollers can further damage brittle hair. Avoid sleeping with hair rollers in place.

* If you have lost underarm hair, try not to use deodorants and use unscented talcum power instead.

Wearing a wig
If your hair does not grow back, is patchy, or you are still undergoing chemotherapy, you might consider wearing a wig. There are several varieties in all styles and colours, and can be made from both synthetic and human hair, or a combination of both.

Paying for a wig
You are entitled to free wig if you are in inpatient when the wig is supplied or if you are on State benefits/allowances.

If you are not eligible to receive a wig free, then you are still able to get one at NHS prescription charge, prices are approximately £55 for an acrylic wig, £140 for half real hair wig and £205 for a full real hair wig, or through the Cancer Relief Macmillan Fund. Your doctor, nurse or social worker should be able to advise you.

Children and young adults up to the age of 19 in full time education are also entitled to free wigs if hair loss is as a result of their treatment. If they are going to have intermittent treatment over a few years they will probably need a new wig every time as their head size grows. Alternatives to wigs are scarves, hats and baseball caps.

If you want to choose a wig from a shop, hairdresser or wig retailer, you are free to do so although it is likely to cost you more. However, because you have lost your hair due to chemotherapy or radiotherapy, you are exempt from paying VAT if you fill in a VAT form. This must be presented at the time when you buy the wig as it cannot be claimed back later.

Wig specialists

A wig specialist will help you choose a colour and style that suits you. You may want the help and advice of your regular hairdresser or a friend, and your wig can be chosen at leisure.

How to wear a wig

There are several different tips to make sure your wig is secure:-

* Although a well fitting wig should stay in place by itself you can also use double-sided tape. Wig specialist’s stock hypo-allergic double-sided tape that will not irritate your skin. The tape is applied to the underside of the wig. Surgical spirit can be used to remove any remaining adhesive.

* The lining of the wig can sometimes irritate the scalp. You may find it helpful to wear a thin cotton scarf or skullcap under your wig. These are usually available from wig suppliers.

* You will need to have your wig adjusted as you lose more hair.

* Ensure that you receive instructions on how to care for your wig and how to have it re-styled.

* Try to avoid using hair spray on you wig as this can make it look unnatural.

Loss of other facial hair

It is possible to loose the eyebrow hair. There is a remarkable make up process called micropigmentation to which can simulate cosmetically perfect eyeliner or eyebrows hair. It is only available privately - more information can be found on

Table to summarise risk of hair loss with different chemotherapy drugs:-

Drugs which usually do cause hair loss

Drugs which sometimes cause hair loss

Drugs which usually don't cause hair loss

Adriamycin Amsacrine Methotrexate
Daunorubicin Cytarabine Carmustine(BCNU)
Etoposide Bleomycin Mitroxantrone
Irinotecan (Campto) Busulphan Mitomycin C
Cyclophosphamide 5 Fluorouracil Carboplatin
Epirubicin Melphalan Cisplatin

Docetaxel, (Taxotere)

Vincristine Procarbazine
Paclitaxel, (Taxol) Vinblastine 6-Mercaptopurine
Ifosphamide Lomustine(CCNU) Sreptozotocin
Vindesine Thiotepa Fludarabine
Vinorelbine Gemcitabine Raltitrexate (Tomudex)

UK Wig specialists:-

Banbury – Postiche Ltd , Little Bourton House Southam Road Banbury Oxon OX16 7SR. Tel: 01295 750606

Beesley Hair Centre, 100 high Street Sandhurst Berkshire GU47 8EE. Tel: 01252 871764

Carpenters Hair Centre, 34 High Street Maidstone Kent. Tel: 01622 677093

Face Facts Hair centre. Jews House 1 Steep Hill Lincoln LN12 1LS. Tel: 01522 544727

Hairdressing & Beauty Association. Bedford Chambers. The Piazza London WC2E 8HA. Tel: 027 836 4008

Hair Plus. 10 County Arcade Victoria Quarter Leeds LS1 6BN. Tel: 0113 234 1046

Hudsons Hair Centre. Lloyds House 1st Floor 16 Lloyd Street Manchester M2 5WA. Tel: 0161 834 6151.

Profiles Hair Centre. 301 Ashley Road Parkstone Poole BH14 9DZ. Tel: 01202 747999

Trendco Hair Centre. 229 Kensington Church Street London W8 7LX. Tel: 0171 221 2646

Trendco Hair Centre112/114 Western Road Hove BN3 1DD. Tel: 01237 774977/777503

Turveys Hair Centre. 14 Glasgow Road Edinburgh EH12 8HL. Tel: 0131 334 0707

Useful organisations:-

The Alopecia Patients Society, Lyons Ct 1668 High Street
Knowle West Midlands B93 0LY
Offers support and advice to men, women and children. Send a SAE (A4 size)

Institute of Trichologists
PO Box 142, Stevenage
Herts SG1 5UX. Tel: 01438 387182

Further general information Your doctors and specialist nurses are in an ideal position to give you relevant information on your disease and treatment as they know your individual circumstances. Cancerbackup has a help line (0808 800 1234) and a prize winning video available in English, Italian, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Hindi explaining Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy. has over 500 pages describing cancer, its management, practical tips and tool which patients, their carers and their doctors have found helpful during the cancer journey.

Please refer to the "archive" on this page, to read more about chemotherapy and hair loss.

Chemotherapy and hair loss: What to expect during treatment

I found this article at It is about chemotherapy and hair loss.
It's so great, thus i must share it with you.
Enjoy reading!

Chemotherapy and hair loss: What to expect during treatment
Special to

You might not think of your hair's importance in your everyday life until you face losing it. And if you have cancer and are about to undergo chemotherapy, the chance of losing your hair is very real. Both men and women report hair loss as one of the side effects they fear most after being diagnosed with cancer.

Whether or not your hair falls out from your chemotherapy depends mostly on the type and dose of medication you receive. But whether you can maintain a healthy body image after you hair falls out depends a lot on your attitude and the support of your friends and family.

Chemotherapy and hair loss: Why does it occur?

Chemotherapy drugs are powerful medications that attack rapidly growing cancer cells. Unfortunately, these drugs also attack other rapidly growing cells in your body — including those in your hair roots.

Chemotherapy may cause hair loss all over your body — not just on your scalp. Sometimes your eyelash, eyebrow, armpit, pubic and other body hair also fall out. Some chemotherapy drugs are more likely than others to cause hair loss, and different doses can cause anything from a mere thinning to complete baldness. Talk to your doctor or nurse about the medication you'll be taking. Your doctor or nurse can tell you what to expect.

Fortunately, most of the time hair loss from chemotherapy is temporary. You can expect to regrow a full head of hair six months to a year after you stop treatment, though your hair may temporarily be a different shade or texture.

Chemotherapy and hair loss: What should you expect?

Hair usually begins falling out 10 to 14 days after you start treatment. It could fall out very quickly in clumps or gradually. You'll likely notice accumulations of loose hair on your pillow, in your hairbrush or in your shower drain.

Your hair loss will continue throughout your treatment and up to a month afterward. Whether your hair thins or you become completely bald will depend on your treatment. You generally need to lose about 50 percent of your hair before it's noticeable to other people.

It takes about four to six weeks for your hair to recover from chemotherapy. In general, you can expect about a quarter inch of growth each month.

When your hair starts to grow back, it will probably be slightly different from the hair you lost. But the difference is usually temporary. Your new hair might have a different texture or color. It might be curlier than it was before, or it could be gray until the cells that control the pigment in your hair begin functioning again.

Chemotherapy and hair loss: Can hair loss be prevented?

No treatment exists that can guarantee your hair won't fall out during or after chemotherapy. The best way for you to deal with impending hair loss is to plan ahead and focus on making yourself comfortable with your appearance before, during and after your cancer treatment.

Several treatments have been investigated as possible ways to prevent hair loss, but none has been absolutely effective, including:

  • Scalp hypothermia (cryotherapy). During your chemotherapy, ice packs or similar devices are placed on your head to slow blood flow to your scalp. This way, chemotherapy drugs are less likely to have an effect on your scalp. In general, scalp hypothermia works somewhat in 50 percent to 80 percent of people going through chemotherapy who try it. However, the procedure also causes a small risk of cancer recurring in your scalp, as this area doesn't receive the same dose of chemotherapy as the rest of your body. Most people who try this procedure find it to be uncomfortable and very cold.
  • Minoxidil (Rogaine). Applying minoxidil — a drug approved for pattern hair loss in men and women — to your scalp before and during chemotherapy isn't likely to prevent your hair loss, although some research shows it may speed up your hair regrowth. In one small study, women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer applied minoxidil twice daily throughout their treatment and for four months afterward. Though their hair eventually all fell out, it took longer for the women who applied minoxidil to lose all their hair than it did for the women who didn't use it, and their hair started to grow back earlier.
Chemotherapy and hair loss: How to make the best of the situation

Your hair loss generally can't be prevented or controlled, but it can be managed. Take the following steps throughout your treatment to minimize the frustration and anxiety associated with hair loss.

Before treatment

  • Be gentle to your hair. Get in the habit of being kind to your hair. Don't bleach, color or perm your hair — this can weaken it. Air dry your hair as much as possible and avoid heating devices such as curling irons and hot rollers. Making your hair strong now might make it more likely to stay in your head a little longer during treatment.
  • Consider cutting your hair. Short hair tends to look fuller than long hair. So as your hair falls out, it won't be as noticeable if you have short hair. Also, if you have long hair, going short might help you make a better transition to total hair loss.
  • Plan ahead for a head covering. Now is the time to start thinking about wigs, scarves or other head coverings. Whether you choose to wear a head covering to conceal your hair loss is up to you. But it's easier to plan for it now rather than later. Your health insurance might help cover the cost of a wig. Talk to your insurance provider.

During treatment

  • Baby your remaining hair. Continue your gentle hair strategies throughout your treatment. Try using a satin pillowcase, which is less likely to attract and catch fragile hair. Use a soft brush. Wash your hair only as often as necessary. Consider using a gentle shampoo when washing your hair. Stay away from shampoos with strong detergents and chemicals that can dry out your scalp, including salicylic acid, alcohol and strong fragrances.
  • Consider shaving your head. Some people report that their scalp feels itchy, sensitive and irritated during their treatment and while their hair is falling out. Shaving your head can reduce the irritation and save the embarrassment of shedding. Some men shave their heads because they feel it looks better than the patchy hair loss they might be experiencing. Also, a shaved head might be easier for securing your wig or hairpiece.
  • Protect your scalp. If your head is going to be exposed to the sun or to cold air, protect it with sunscreen or a head covering. Your scalp can be sensitive as you go through treatment, so extreme cold or sunshine can easily irritate it even more.

After treatment

  • Continue gentle hair care. Your new hair growth will be especially fragile and vulnerable to the damage caused by styling products and heating devices. Hold off on coloring or bleaching your new hair for at least six months. Besides damaging new hair, processing could irritate your sensitive scalp.
  • Be patient. It's likely that your hair will come back slowly and that it might not look normal right away. But growth takes time, and it also takes time to repair the damage caused by your cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy and hair loss: Cover your head

Covering your head as you hair falls out is a purely personal decision. For many women hair is associated with femininity and health, so they choose to maintain that look by wearing a wig. Others choose hats and scarves. Still others choose not to cover their heads at all.

Ask your doctor or a hospital social worker about resources in your area to help you find the best head covering for you. Look Good ... Feel Better is a free program that provides hair and beauty makeovers and tips to women with cancer. These classes are offered throughout the United States and in several other countries. Many classes are offered through local chapters of the American Cancer Society. Look Good ... Feel Better also offers classes for teens with cancer, as well as a Web site especially for men.

Radiation therapy can also cause hair loss

Radiation therapy also attacks quickly growing cells in your body, but unlike chemotherapy, it affects only the specific area where treatment is concentrated. If you have radiation to your head, you'll likely lose the hair on your head.

Your hair usually begins growing back after your treatments end. But whether it grows back to its original thickness and fullness depends on your treatment. Different types of radiation and different doses will have different effects on your hair. Higher doses of radiation can cause permanent hair loss. Talk to your doctor about what dose you'll be receiving so you'll know what to expect.

Radiation therapy also affects your skin. The treatment area is likely to be red and may look sunburned or tanned. If your radiation treatment is to your head, it's a good idea to cover your head with a protective hat or scarf because your skin will be sensitive to cold and sunlight. Wigs and other hairpieces might irritate your scalp.

Please visit the "archive" for more articles about chemotherapy and hair loss.