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Reducing Chemo Induced Hair Loss

Updated on July 10, 2016
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Chemotherapy Hair Loss

In my previous hub “How to Combat Chemotherapy Nausea”, I discussed how cancer treatments have improved greatly as far as their effectiveness. However, in terms of side effects of these drugs, unfortunately not much has changed. Nausea, vomiting and weight loss continue to be major problems.

Another side effect with many chemo medications that impact a person, not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well, is hair loss otherwise known as alopecia. Some chemotherapy drugs cause more hair loss than others. If and when hair loss occurs varies with different therapies and with different people. This loss can be a devastating change in a person’s life, especially for a woman!

Although, as with everything else, nothing is guaranteed 100% to work for everyone all the time. There have been some promising findings from research studies and among those in treatment that there are a few weapons to add to the arsenal against chemo induced hair loss; if not to prevent at least lessen the loss.


Steps to Avoid Loss

According to Livestrong.com there are 6 steps to help avoid the loss of your locks!

  1. Wash hair less often (only when really needed)

  2. Use a wide tooth comb and soft brush. Avoid heat styling, rollers or hair ties that pull. Basically, anything that puts stress on the hair and scalp.

  3. Avoid any chemical treatments on hair. This includes color, perms or relaxers.

  4. Eyelashes fall into the hair category. Do not use false eyelashes. The glue needed to adhere them stick to fragile lashes and also can cause allergic reactions to the lid.

  5. Using satin pillow cases can lessen friction on hair strands while sleeping.

  6. Apply ice packs to the head (scalp hypothermia/cryotherapy) during chemo to cool the head and reduce blood flow to the scalp and thus, chemo medication

Scalp Hypothermia

This last step (scalp hypothermia) has been around for over 40 year but unfortunately, the implementation of this therapy has been used very little over this time. Research studies done have shown positive results and contribute low usage to lack of education. Bags of ice, gel cold packs and even a manufactured pre-cooled cap (ex: Cold Cap, Chemo Cap, Elasto-Gel, Penguin Cold Cap) can be used simply and with good results.


What You Know

Have you ever heard of options for reducing hair loss during chemotherapy?

See results

Be Prepared

You will also need to prepare yourself for what you will see. You may think there would be nothing to think about because, “Yay! I have hair again!” When what you’re used to seeing in the mirror all your life comes back a totally different color and texture, it can be quite a shock!

What can you do when hair is lost? Here are so ways to distress the situation during the “fallout”.

  • Cut hair short or shave head. This helps avoid the appearance of missing clumps of hair that can be very upseting

  • Buy a wig (or several) You can find shades that match closest to your natural color or look at this time as an opportunity to try something totally different and have fun!

  • See a cosmetologist who could give suggestion specific to your situation and match to your skin tones. Since hair can be lost all over the body, such as lashes, this option could be very beneficial.

  • Use sunscreen routinely. If you do join the “bald is beautiful” club, you will definitely want to protect your head from those harmful rays of the sun!

  • Use gentle products: shampoos, conditioners, light styling products and moisturizers (for exposed scalp)

What causes hair loss during chemo?

The question everyone has is, “Why does chemotherapy cause hair loss in the first place?” Well, the reason is that in order for chemo to be affective it must attack the rapidly growing cells which, is exactly what cancer is. Unfortunately, many area of healthy tissue in the body also have rapidly growing cells with hair being one of them!

If there’s anything positive about this whole process, it’s that the loss is temporary. With this said, in addition to preparing yourself for hair loss while in treatment, it’s important to also prepare yourself for hair re-growth. This ‘re-growth ‘period could last anywhere from 3-10 months. So, even though it’s hard to be patient, it will take time to regain your mane!

Educate Yourself

Knowing what to expect helps lessen the anxiety of a very traumatic experience. Knowing that there is something you can do to be proactive in your own care can be empowering!

Here are some links to websites with more information to help you fight and cope with the challenges of chemotherapy.

http://cancer.about.com/od/chemotherapysideeffects/a/preventhairloss.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/chemotherapy/in-depth/hair-loss/art-20046920

http://www.livestrong.com/article/246670-how-to-prevent-hair-loss-during-chemo/

Report of Successful Cold Cap Use

© 2015 cammyshawn

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