Chemotherapy, Radiation Treatment and Hair Loss

Happy and young cancer survivor after successful chemotherapy.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Embellishments Hair Restoration Studio would like to first acknowledge the warriors currently in a battle with, and the survivors of breast cancer!

We also would like to acknowledge those who give countless time, resources and monetary funds to support the effort to fight against breast cancer!

After A Breast Cancer Diagnosis

A breast cancer diagnosis can be extremely frightening and feel like a major blow to both the person diagnosed and their loved ones. A diagnosis brings many questions with it, like “How will I be affected by chemotherapy and radiation therapy?” “How will the cancer treatment affect my appearance?” “Will I lose my hair?” “How will I handle losing my hair?” How will others – coworkers, friends, even family – respond to me if I lose my hair?”

And that’s just the beginning … Actual hair loss resulting from breast cancer treatments generate new questions and concerns. Many women wonder, “When should I purchase a wig? “Should I even wear a wig?” “Where is the right place to get a quality wig?” And the biggie, “What happens to the hair I already have?”

Embellishments HRS would like to answer some of these questions for you.

First, chemotherapy is an aggressive medical approach to an aggressive disease. Chemotherapy is designed to attack rapidly growing cancer cells and therefore attacks other rapidly growing cells in the body. Unfortunately, this tends to include the hair follicles.

Hair loss can occur throughout the entire body or just on the scalp. Depending on the dose and/or type of chemotherapy drug. In some instances, cancer patients only experience thinning hair.


Setting Proper Expectations

Never assume that you will lose your hair. All treatments do not cause hair loss, therefore it is important to know the type of chemotherapy you will receive. Be sure to speak with your Oncologist about side effects related to your specific diagnosis and treatment. For example, radiation treatments without chemotherapy have been known to cause texture changes, weaken existing hair causing breakage, but not necessarily hair loss.

If you are about to receive or have just started chemotherapy with hair loss as a side effect, expect hair to start falling out within 1-3 weeks after your first treatment. You may notice a loss of fullness right away depending on your hair length, texture, and density. Some people will lose hair almost immediately. They will notice excess hair in the shower, on the floor and/or in brush bristles, while others experience hair loss gradually.

It’s important to know that hair loss will continue throughout your treatment and up to several weeks after completion. When treatment is finished, it’ll take awhile for the follicles to readjust and to start producing hair again. During the follicle readjustment period, it is common for patients to experience texture changes and possible changes in hair color. Don’t worry, typically these changes are temporary until all cells controlling growth and hair melanin have readjusted.


Hair Loss Prevention

One question we are frequently asked is whether hair loss during chemotherapy can simply be prevented. Unfortunately, the answer is no — there are no guaranteed preventative treatments that exist to stop hair from falling out or becoming damaged. However, there is current research into alternative remedies such as scalp hypothermia (cryotherapy).

During chemotherapy sessions, cryotherapy involves placing ice packs or similar devices onto the head to slow blood flow to your scalp. Cryotherapy prevents chemotherapy medication from reaching the follicles and stops hair loss in most patients.

Another remedy involves the use of Minoxidil before and during chemotherapy. Minoxidil is an approved drug to combat male and female pattern baldness. This treatment won’t stop hair loss, but some research has shown it may speed up hair regrowth after therapy.

At Embellishments’ we understand that receiving a cancer diagnosis is a trying time. Upon notification that chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy are part of your treatment plan, we encourage you to take pro-active measures such as immediately scheduling a consultation with your stylist or a hair replacement specialist to assist with your hair care needs while on your journey towards health and wellness.

For additional assistance, contact Embellishments at (513) 386-7255 today!

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