Cancer comes with a lot of concerns on the sidelines, varying in the degree of distress perhaps. Hair loss is one such related distressing side effect. The probability of facing hair loss is high if you have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy. With due intervention, in most cases, you can have your hair back. A very small fraction of people who undergo chemotherapy, may not be able to regrow their hair. This is due to some specific drugs that increase the risk of permanent hair loss. It is not cancer in itself that causes hair loss, but the chemotherapy or radiation therapy and accompanying medications that lead to this situation.
What does chemotherapy actually do?
The drugs used in the therapy are very powerful formulations that attack rapidly growing cancer cells. However, what happens on the sidelines, unfortunately, is that these drugs also attack other healthy cells in your body — including those in your hair follicles. And it’s not just the follicles on your scalp, but also in other parts of your body – eyelash, eyebrows, armpit, pubic and other regions. Hair thus falls out.
Hair loss could be one of the side effects of such therapy, that you may face. Usually, hair may start falling out 10 to 14 days after you start your treatment. It then continues through the course of your treatment and for a few weeks afterwards as well. You will notice, hair thinning, hair fall and perhaps scalp tenderness as well.
Effect of Chemotherapy/ Radiotherapy on Hair
Both radiation therapy and chemotherapy can affect your hair. Radiotherapy concentrates on a specific region for treatment. Its side effects, too pertain mostly to a particular region, unlike chemotherapy. If you have radiation near your head, you are most likely to lose hair on the head.
The amount of hair loss and its regrowth will depend on the treatment. Different types of radiation and different dosages will have different effects on your hair, with very high doses that may even lead to permanent hair loss. As regards chemotherapy in most cases it is temporary hair loss.
Dr. Apoorva Shah, Founder of RichFeel and Pioneer of Trichology in India shares some advice on how to tackle hair loss caused due to cancer.
Hair loss cannot be prevented completely in such circumstances, but can surely be managed.
· Pick a hair care regimen, in consultation with your hair doctor, that would help maintain and promote hair growth.
· Stay away from commercially sold shampoos that are strong and contain chemicals for fragrance, alcohol, or salicylic acid. Use prescribed hair care products only, as guided by your Trichologist.
· Stay away from using styling equipment and products. No perming or straightening for a while.
· Avoid hair colouring. Hair colours contain peroxide, ammonia, forms of lacquer, and other chemicals that can irritate the scalp and damage the hair.
· Do not use hot rollers or straighteners, or any such equipment that applies heat on the hair shaft.
· Use a soft-bristled hairbrush and comb gently.
· Towel and air-dry your hair after a wash. Avoid blow dryers.
· Go for a shorter hairstyle for a few months. Shorter hair won’t lie flat on your scalp and will give a fuller look.
· Do not wear tight headgear or wear your hair in any tight manner that can put a strain on the hair follicles. Hair shouldn’t be tugged.
· Do consider going in for customisable hair systems. Not wigs. Your hair doctor and a professional stylist can help you get one that will suit you and your lifestyle best.
· Make the best of your look! Don’t let your tresses stress you out, making matters worse! Leave your hair worries to your Trichologist and rebuild your confidence & life!
How can a Trichologist help?
Your Trichologist is the most important person for your hair needs especially when you are out of your cancer treatment. Be it any hair and scalp related concern that has been triggered by your entire experience with the disease, the Trichologist is the right person to approach, to draw a clear diagnosis and guide with a way forward.
At RichFeel, we have pledged to help cancer patients get their confidence back. Through the Look Good Feel Better and Drop the Scarf programs, RichFeel enriches the lives of the cancer patients, providing newfound confidence, while recognizing those who have supported them all the way. Through these initiatives, free external application for patients who have undergone chemotherapy and free hair systems for patients who have undergone radiotherapy is given.