Chemotherapy Related Hair Loss

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Chemotherapy consists of the administration of drugs that destroy rapidly reproducing cancer cells. Cancer cells are some of the most rapidly reproducing cells in the body, but other cells, such as those which contribute to the formation of hair shafts and nails, are also rapidly reproducing. Unfortunately, while chemotherapy drugs preferentially destroy cancer cells, the drugs also can destroy those cells responsible for normal growth of hair and nails. Cancer patients sometimes shed hair and nails during treatment. Chemotherapy drugs are poisonous to the cells of the hair root responsible for hair shaft formation. Usually, the hair is lost rapidly in large quantities during treatment.

NO HAIR GROWTH STIMULANTS ,SHAMPOOS, CONDITIONERS OR OTHER COSMETIC TREATMENTS CAN PREVENT OR RETARD THE HAIR LOSS. The good news, however, is that once chemotherapy is completed, the hair usually grows back.

HOW AND WHEN HAIR GROWTH OCCURS
Adequate hair growth may take six months to one year. Returning hair may be different from the hair that was lost. Due to the absence or alteration of pigment, the hair may grow back white, gray or a different color. Eventually, as the pigment cells return to normal, the original color should return. It is common for the new hair returning to be finer in texture initially, but like color, the texture should return to its original thickness. It is sometimes difficult to be patient, but as the body is returning to normal and getting over the significant insult, time is a necessary ingredient.

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HAIR CARE TIPS FOR NEW HAIR GROWTH 

l. Shampoo hair twice weekly with a mild shampoo such as those intended for dry or damaged hair. 

2. The scalp should also be thoroughly massaged to remove any scale. 

3. Follow shampoo with a conditioner for fine or limp hair. 

4. Avoid high heat from blow dryers to the hair and skin. 

5. Keep hairstyling to a minimum due to the new hair being prone to breakage. Brushing, combing, hair pins and curling should all be minimized. Curling appliances should be avoided as the scalp is very tender following chemotherapy. 

6. Hair styling aids such as mousse, hair spray, hair spritz, styling gel and sculpturing gel may be used in moderation. It is best to select products with normal to light holding ability as the high-hold products may not be completely removed with mild shampoos. Hair styling aids can build up on the hair shaft resulting in dullness and possibly scalp disease.

TREATMENT OPTIONS 

At the onset of hair loss, (the very first hair fall), some patients choose to shave the total scalp. Their reasons are the following:

  • The elimination of uncontrolled hair fall and embarrassing shedding.

  • Some feel that total baldness is more attractive than the spotty hair loss (especially males). Many believe that after 25%-50% hair loss, males or females look healthier with no hair at all.

  • Shaving facilitates prosthetic hair security and comfort (i.e., vacuum bases, two-way tape and other adhesives for hair prostheses). What may seem extreme to some, may not be for others.

  • Attractive head coverings are available from a variety of manufacturers as an alternative to wigs.