Nowadays, cancer can be treated successfully. However, cancer survivors face a lot of challenges. One of the greatest challenges is hair loss. During treatment, medicines affect the cells of the hair, and growth is stopped altogether. So, a cancer patient begins to shed hair. Sometimes, hairs become thinner to the extent that scalp can be seen easily.
This challenge is most upsetting and daring for the female patients. It is the normal for men for aldness does not lessen their masculinity, rather it increases it. However, baldness affects the psychology, courage and pride of a female cancer patient. Chances are they may lose this battle and feel the ugliest worsening their health conditions. Family and friends are required to consistently support them, be with them and make them feel good.
Why Hair Loss Happen to Cancer Patients?
Hair Loss is the most expected part of the treatment. It is imperative here to understand that there are different kinds of cancers. Not all cancer patients will lose hair, but most of them do experience hair fall due to side effects of the treatment.
Hair Loss does not occur only on scalp of patient. Rather, it occurs throughout the body on arms, legs, armpits, face, public area etc. It is noticeable only when it starts occurring on the head. They may fall entirely, slowly or in sections. Following are the causes of why hair loss happens to cancer patients:
Chemotherapy: It is important to understand that not all chemotherapy patients undergo hair fall. There are some medicines which affect the cells that are responsible for the growth of the hair of the patient. Following are drugs that are responsible for the hair fall during chemotherapy treatment of cancer patients:
- Fluorouracil (5-FU)
- Gemcitabine (Gemzar)
- Idarubicin (Idamycin)
- Ifosfamide (Ifex)
- Paclitaxel (multiple brand names)
- Vincristine (Marqibo, Vincasar)
- Vinorelbine (Alocrest, Navelbine)
- Altretamine (Hexalen)
- Carboplatin (Paraplatin)
- Cisplatin (Platinol)
- Cyclophosphamide (Neosar)
- Docetaxel (Taxotere)
- Doxorubicin (Adriamycin, Doxil)
- Epirubicin (Ellence)
It is true that cancer patients lose their hair totally during curing process. Cancer patients begin to experience hair fall once they are 1-2 months into the treatment. However, it is also true that once chemotherapy ends, cancer patients can expect their hairs to regrow in 1-3 months. In 1-6 months, hairs will regrow completely.
- Radiation Therapy: This therapy affects areas which are treated by Radiation Therapy. For example, if breasts are focused, then they will lose their hair. Hair loss depends on the quantity of the dose and the graveness of the illness. The hairs do grow back within several months after the treatment, but hair texture may be thinner or different.
- Targeted Therapy: This therapy fortunately does not cause total hair loss of the cancer patients. However, following targeted therapies cause hairs to become drier, loose, thinner and curlier than usual. Here are they:
- Sonidegib (Odomzo)
- Sorafenib (Nexavar)
- Trametinib (Mekinist)
- Vemurafenib (Zelboraf)
- Vismodegib (Erivedge)
- Afatinib (Gilotrif)
- Cetuximab (Erbitux)
- Dabrafenib (Tafinlar)
- Dasatinib (Sprycel)
- Erlotinib (Tarceva)
- Ibrutinib (Imbruvica)
- Imatinib (Gleevec, Glivec)
- Nilotinib (Tasigna)
- Panitumumab (Vectibix)
- Hormonal Therapy: This therapy does not cause hair loss to a great extent. Patients who receive hormonal therapy tend to experience minimal hair loss. These following hormonal therapies are said to cause this minimal hair loss of cancer patients:
- Letrozole (Femara)
- Fulvestrant (Faslodex)
- Octreotide (Sandostatin)
- amoxifen (Nolvadex)
- Anastrozole (Arimidex)
How to Manage and Care for Hair during Whole Process
The most dreadful part of the treatment is hair loss. The cancer patients can learn to manage and care for hair during whole curing process through use of different kinds of products, fulfillment of necessary requirements and intake of vitamins. This treatment is called “supportive” care, also called “palliatve” treatment.
Nutrition：Doctors suggest that diet must be kept to provide necessary nutritional requirements. These nutritional requirements will allow the body to be healthier and fitter. A balanced diet will make hair follicles stronger. Many vitamins such as Vitamin B Complex, Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Biotin are said to boost hair growth by improving blood flow to the scalp.
Food: There are many recommendations of food which help in growing hair back very soon. There is a carbohydrate, called inositol, increase the chances of the hair regrowth. This carbohydrate can also be taken as a food supplement. This carbohydrate can be obtained from the navy and Lava beans, citrus fruits and wheat germ. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are also helpful, and encourage the hair growth.
Sleep: Sleep is always necessary for the proper and normal functioning of the body. This is very much needed after a person has undergone dreadful, painful and challenging battle with cancer. So, cancer patient must take 12 hours sleep daily to stimulate their body to start as normal as possible.
Mental Preparation for the patient
Cancer is not only a physical battle. It is primarily a psychological battle. Cancer patients can be dreadful of all that is about to happen in the future to them. So, cancer patients should try to strengthen themselves, and work upon their fortitude, forbearance and courage. Following are some mental preparation which should have :
A. Knowledge Preparations:
In order to strengthen yourself for going through the procedure with utmost bravery, cancer patients must be mentally prepared. So, cancer patients must know side effects of each treatment. They are given below:
- Chemotherapy: Cancer patients must be aware that when cancer patients are into 1-2 months of treatment, some special drugs are prescribed to cancer patients which cause hair loss. The reason is that chemotherapy kills healthy cells such as hair follicles, bone marrow, lining of the digestive track etc. which is good for the purpose of killing cancer cells. So, in order to get treated, you must undergo this emotional injury and challenges.
- Targeted therapy: This therapy may affect cancer patient’s cells that are responsible for the development of the hair. So, hairs can become thinner, duller, curlier etc.
- Radiation Therapy: This therapy only affects areas that are treated with radiation. So, it only affects areas that have seen radiation, and lost their hair.
- Hormonal Therapy: Not all cancer patients receiving hormonal therapy will experience loss of hair. There are special hormonal therapies which is why they face hair loss.
B. Know the point period of hair losing and growing back:
Cancer patients do not only lose their hair, rather hairs grow back as well. Hair loss is just part of the treatment. It will not live with the patients permanently. In some cases, unfortunately hair loss may be permanent.
a. Point Period of Hair Losing and Growing Back After Chemotherapy Therapy:
Hair of the cancer patients do not instantly fall as soon as they are diagnosed. Hairs becomes thinner, duller and curlier only when cancer patient is weeks into the treatment. When cancer patients are 1 to 4 weeks into chemotherapy treatment, the hairs become thinner. They fall either in sections, or completely. Once the treatment has been completed successfully, cancer patient’s hair will start to regrow. After two weeks of chemotherapy, cancer patients can expect hairs to regrow.
b. Point Period of Hair Losing and Growing Back After Radiation Therapy:
Those cancer patients who go through radiation therapy undergo hair loss after 4 weeks of radiation therapy.
So, once treatments have stopped, hair should begin to grow back. It may have a different texture or color. In rare cases, hair won’t grow back as fully as it did before. So, it may be said that Hair thin or fall out 1 to 4 weeks after first chemotherapy treatment and 4 weeks after you receive radiation therapy.
C. Get Professional Advice:
You can take great care of your hair during the cancer treatment as well. Also, you can grow back your hair using hair-growth creams, lotions and oils. It must be told here that you must ask your doctor’s suggestions, insights and prescriptions. So, any treatment to help hair grow back like using hair-growth creams or lotions is supposed to talk with doctor.
Avoidance: After the successful treatment, cancer patients must avoid alcohol, cigarettes for the better and improved health. This will also allow the hair follicles to grow back as soon as possible.
Oils: There are many oils suggested to the cancer survivors to use for boosting the hair regrowth. These oils include rosemary, bergamot, lavender and ylang and ylang. These oils are said to stimulate the hair regrowth and regenerate cells.
D. Products Suggested for the Growth of Hair After Chemotherapy:
There are many products in the market floating that are better for the growth of hair after chemotherapy. Following are the commercial products that are purposed at the regrowth of the hair of the cancer patients:
- Minoxidil: This product is said to stimulate the hair growth of the cancer patients. It is one of the most acclaimed products in regard with the growth of the hair of cancer patients.
- Tricomin: Medical research studies have established that this product reduces the resting period of the hair follicle, and actively augment the hair regrowth of the cancer survivors. This product can be used along with Minoxidil.
- Ketoconazole Shampoo: Most cancer patients are recommended ketoconazole shampoo. This product strengthens hair follicles and foster hair regrowth. This shampoo is an antifungal product, which restricts the growth of a hormone which stops the growth of the hair follicle. The purpose of this product is to clean toxins and other blockages which prevent the instant regrowth of hair.
- Cold Caps: This product is not a hair regrowth product. Rather, this product slows the process of hair loss. It impacts blood flow, preventing chemotherapy to reach the hair follicle. Cold caps therapy is provided with chemotherapy treatment. These are also available for use at home.
E. Psychological Preparations:
Cancer is more of a psychological battle than physical one. The greatest side effect of cancer treatment is hair loss. Females especially should manage to prepare for this loss. This loss will upset them to the greatest extents possible. Emotional concerns in regard with hair loss can frighten a person about the period of the treatment in which s/he will have to undergo. Depression, anxiety, sadness, worry, shock, disbelief, terror, upset, shame etc. are some feelings which may reoccur to the patient.
Five Gold Psychological Encouragement Ways:
Here are five golden psychological encouragement ways which will help cancer patients in preparing themselves psychologically for the hair loss:
- Reminding yourself that hair loss itself is not life-threatening.
Cancer patients should remind themselves that hair loss is not life-threatening. Cancer is life-threatening disease. In order to get treated successfully, they must undergo chemotherapy which is responsible for the shedding of the hair. So, hair loss must be regarded as the life-saving period.
- Talking to friends and families to get support.
Cancer patients should try to keep their emotions inside them. Communication is a great way to share grief and shock. They must talk to close family member and friends, who they are comfortable with, to get support. Others support help feel better in trying times.
- Realizing That Your Hair May Grow Back
Hair loss is not a permanent condition which cancer patients face. After the chemotherapy treatment, hairs tend to grow back within 2 weeks. It is a fact that most cancer patient’s hair grow back.
- Looking To The Future
They must look at the brighter, healthier and shinier future that lies after the successful treatment. This will make them positive and confident.
- Divert Attention To Positive Things
Cancer patients should try to think about the positive things. Whenever they are in a state of worry, shock, disbelief or sadness, they must try to divert their attention to more positive things.
F. Mental Preparations For friends & families:
Not only cancer patients have to prepare mentally, friends and family of the cancer patient should also be prepared mentally to stand by and support the patient through the toughest, roughest and hardest treatment of the cancer. Here is how you can do it:
- Prepare to deal situation that she/he loses temper all of a sudden. Sometimes, s/he may lose temper on trivial matters – on things that matter the least or make no sense. So, always be alert, calm and try not to react.
- Always be gentle and patient. Your aloof and angry attitude can make patient feel hurt and alone. So, try to be gentle with the patient for few words of care can relieve them of their pain.
- Prepare to share the bad emotion and high pressure from her/him. Cancer patients may share their grief with you, so try to show empathy and learn to share the bad emotion and high pressure.
- Laugh together: Do not let the sadness prevail. Crack jokes, be funny and laugh together.
- Ask first before visiting, giving advice, asking questions: You may never how they are feeling. So, always take their permission and start your visiting/asking/advising sessions whenever you find them necessary.
- Treat Them Same As Usual: Do not give them feeling that they are ill or special. Just treat them usually.
- Find More Topics Other Than Cancer. Try to talk about other topics, such as entertainment, politics, education, personal stuff etc. Try not talk least about cancer.
- Read Her/his All SNS. Always read their message. Try not to ignore their messages.
G. Physical Preparations
There are many physical preparations which can be undertaken to make the cancer patient feel better and improved. They are given following:
- Wigs and hairpieces:
Try finding a shop that sells wigs and hairpieces designed specifically for people with cancer. It helps to choose a wig or hairpiece before your hair falls out.
Health Insurance Company: The Insurance companies may cover wigs or hairpieces etc. They can provide patients with the wigs. So, patients may need to check what kinds of wigs they are being provided.
- Have your wig or hairpiece fitted properly.
You must call up, and take details of the insurance company. If they are responsible for providing wigs, then you can have your wig/hairpiece fitted properly.
Caring for regrown hair:
Cancer survivors must keep in mind that regrown hair must be taken care, or else they can shed. Here is how you can do it:
Reduce the frequency of washing hair: You must try to wash them twice of thrice a week only.
Use A Wide-Tooth Comb. Do not use a comb that breaks your hair. Wide-tooth comb is the best choice.
Massage Your Scalp To Remove Dry Skin And Flakes. You can use oils to massage your scalp in order to remove any dry skin and flakes.
It is necessary to know more about hair losing before cancer treatments, for psychological problems are hard to defeat. So, psychological, mental and knowledge preparing are imperative before undergoing the curing process.
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Rick Davis says
It’s fantastic to learn that cold caps slow the process of hair loss during chemotherapy. My wife is struggling with breast cancer and she is worried that she will not look attractive after she does chemotherapy. I’ll be sure to tell her that she can try cold caps to slow down the process of hair loss.
Hi, Rick, we are sorry to hear that, but absolutely this beautiful lady would completely recovery from that and get healthy hair look again, best wishes to you both!