All You Wanted to Know About
Alopecia (Hair Loss)
In Cancer Treatment
Alopecia is the word used to describe any type of baldness/hair loss on the scalp or on other hairy regions of the body.
Alopecia is a common side effect of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Hair loss starts gradually. It may begin several weeks after the first treatment or after a few treatments. In most cases, once the treatment is over, hair regrowth occurs. Poor nutrition may also lead to hair loss.
Chemotherapy: Not all drugs used in chemotherapy cause hair loss. Some anticancer agents that can cause hair loss are paclitaxel, docetaxel, vinblastine, 5-fluorouracil, carboplatin, etc.
Radiation therapy: Hair loss depends on the dose, area and method of radiation treatment. When very high doses of radiation are used, the hair may be permanently lost or become thinner in the treated area.
In some cases, hair loss due to cancer treatment is not preventable or treatable with stimulants, solutions or special shampoos. Therefore, learning to deal with hair loss before it occurs can help a person better adjust to this change in physical appearance. Talking about feelings with a doctor, counsellor, someone with a similar experience, family member or a friend may also provide comfort.
- Use a soft hairbrush & gently style the hair.
- Avoid daily hairwash. Wash hair only if necessary.
- Choose a mild shampoo, such as a baby shampoo, to wash the hair. Then, pat it dry with a soft towel.
- Avoid curling or straightening the hair with chemical products.
- Avoid high heat when drying the hair.
- Using a satin pillow cover (less friction).
- Avoid hair colouring.
- Use a hat or a scarf when outdoors.
- Have the hair cut short; shorter style will make it look thicker and fuller. It also will make hair loss easier to manage if it occurs.
It is important to understand that complete hair regrowth often takes 6 to 12 months. When caring for regrown hair, do the following:
- Limit washing of the hair to twice a week.
- Massage the scalp to remove dry skin and flakes.
- Style the hair with care, & limit the amount of hard brushing, pinning, curling, or blow-drying with high heat.
- Use a wide-toothed comb to gently style the regrown hair.
- Avoid hair colouring.
- Select the wig or hairpiece before the hair falls out. By doing so, one can match the current hair style and colour.
- Take the wig to the hairdresser for styling & cutting it to frame the face.
- One may also consider borrowing a wig or hairpiece, rather than buying it.