Chemotherapy and hair loss

Chemotherapy and hair loss

How long does it take for the hair to fall after chemotherapy ?

The hair will generally start to fall 2 to 4 weeks after the treatment is started, with some of the more aggressive forms of chemotherapy the hair can come out quite quickly in large clumps other forms can be quite gradual, coming out when the hair is shampooed or brushed. 

What type of chemotherapy causes hair loss?

The hair loss experienced after Chemotherapy is termed Anagen effluvium, which means the hair is being shed during the growth phase, in the case of Chemotherapy due to the toxic nature of the treatment, the hair  atrophies at the root and falls out. The hair tends to be effected around the time when the course of treatment is being administered. Body hair as well as scalp hair is effected. 

Usually when the consultant prescribes a course of chemotherapy they will advise you at that time if you will experience hair loss through the treatment, below are some examples of treatments and their effects-

Taxol usually causes complete hair loss, including head, brows, lashes, pubic area, legs, and arms.

Methotrexate thins hair in some people but not others. it is rare to have complete hair loss from methotrexate

Adriamycin causes complete hair loss on the head, usually during the first few weeks of treatment. Some patients also lose eyelashes and eyebrows.

Cytoxan and 5-fluorouracil cause minimal hair loss in most  patients, but some may lose a great deal.

 Will your hair grow back after chemotherapy ?

Generally speaking hair will grow back after Chemotherapy, often initially the texture and colour twill be different, the hair can become curly, lacking colour pigment.

Can I keep my hair during chemotherapy ?

There is no treatment which can guarantee no hair loss during Chemotherapy  treatment. The cool cap which reduces the blood flow during treatment does have some degree of success, it can be a challenge to undergo because of the low temperature and the cap can be uncomfortable, patients tell me that if cotton wool is placed at the temples this can help with discomfort. In the end it is down to the individual to prioritise the hair loss and the discomfort.

Within the industry The Paxman scalp cooling system has been shown to give good results and they publish efficacy studies which can be obtained on contacting them.

If it is decided the cool cap is not going to be used, it is advisable to see wig consultant about a wig prior to treatment, especially if the aim is to choose a wig similar to current hairstyle and texture as the practitioner will be able to match lengths and colour  more easily. In my experience the more the patient is prepared for the hair loss the better the outcome, also the treatment can leave the patient feeling under the weather, so it’s not the best time to be choosing a wig although most practitioners are sympathetic to this in their approach.

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