Chemotherapy may bring a lot of positive changes in your body to fight with cancer, but it can be harsh on your hair. Hair loss is absolutely unpreventable if you are undergoing chemo but most people resume growth of hair in a few months time. Read on to know more.
How does chemotherapy affect your hair?
Chemotherapy is an effective treatment for cancer, using chemicals that destroy the cancer cells in the body. It is sometimes also used to treat severe infection or illness, apart from cancer. The therapy not only stops the growth of cancer causing cells but also impede the growth of hair. This results in temporary hair loss, although, towards the end of the treatment, you will be able to recover and your hair will start to grow after a few weeks. Chemo also affects hair re-growth and the color and texture of your new hair may be different than your original hair.
The hair loss depends greatly on the type of chemicals used in the treatment and also on the amount and number of doses. Some chemicals may cause complete balding while some may end up just thinning out your hair. Your doctor will be able to tell you how much hair loss is expected in a particular treatment.
Since the chemicals remain in the body for some time, even after the therapy is stopped, it affects the hair follicles and make the new hair much different from the original ones. Most of the time, the new hair is more curly, thick and even straighter than your original hair. The post-chemotherapy curls are often referred to as ‘chemo curls’. You may expect your hair to get normal once the effect of the chemical on your body is reduced.
When will the hair start falling and growing back again?
If you are undergoing chemotherapy, you will probably notice hair-fall within one to three weeks after the start of the treatment. It could fall gradually or in clumps. You will start noticing them gathered in your clothes, in pillow covers or in shower drain. Some people may experience complete balding while in some there is partial hair loss.
Your hair will thin out or fall out throughout the entire treatment and until a few weeks after treatment. You can expect soft fuzz covering your head after two to four weeks after chemotherapy ends. It doesn’t start until the effect of the drug on your body completely fades. You scalp can become tender after the treatment and you should avoid any chemical styling until the hair grows back normally and attain some height.
One month after chemo, you will start noticing the growth of actual hair, which may or may not be different from your original hair. The hair of your head will grow faster than the hair in other parts of your body. Two months after treatment is stopped, a successful growth of an inch of hair is recorded in most patients. Growth of hair after chemo varies greatly from person to person depending on the type of treatment and amount of doses administered.
Can you prevent the hair loss?
Unfortunately, there is no treatment or alternatives that can prevent your hair from falling during chemotherapy. Therefore, it is important to understand that you are definitely going to lose your hair and plan of ways to deal with it during and after the treatment to avoid any disappointment. Though, there were many investigations done to know whether the hair loss is preventable, but none of them were found effective. Some people may find fast re-growth of hair by the following techniques:
* Cryotherapy– Also known as scalp hypothermia, it involves placing ice packs on the scalp to reduce blood circulation during the chemotherapy. It helps in preventing the drugs from reaching the scalp to some extent. Most people who tried this have found it useful for hair re-growth. You may have headaches due to it and may feel uncomfortable during the procedure. Although people suffering from leukemia (blood cancer) cannot use this technique as the medication cannot be restricted to any part of the body for complete treatment.
* Minoxidil– It is a drug used to treat pattern hair loss in individuals. Applying it on your scalp during chemotherapy will help in speeding up the growth of the new hair. It usually does not prevent hair loss during the treatment and is effective in only a number of people.
Does chemotherapy causes baldness permanently?
Fortunately, the hair grows back in most people who undergo chemo. But in some cases where the patient receives years of strong chemotherapy, there can be permanent baldness as the hair follicles burn out and closes due to the effect of drugs. It impedes the activity of new hair growth and even completely prevents the hair from growing back, though it is very, very rare. If in case, you do not get your hair growing back, you can always use a wig or any head gear to stay attractive and boost your confidence.
How to take care of your hair during and after chemotherapy to assist hair growth
It is very important to have patience with your hair when you are undergoing chemotherapy. Since you will start noticing the effect of the treatment as early as after one week, it is important to be prepared to handle the situation. You may talk to doctor to provide you a consultant who will help out with your hair re-growth and will be there to assist you until your hair grows back normally.
Always use a mild shampoo to clean the chemo curls. A baby shampoo or one which is formulated for dry and damaged hair will be best for your hair. Massage it gently on your scalp to increase the blood circulation and also remove the scaly skin from your tender scalp. Use normal water to rinse off as too hot and too cold water can be devastating for the weak hair follicles. You may apply a leave in conditioner if you have fine hair.Avoid heat styling or using blow dryers on your hair for a few more weeks and be very gentle when styling your new hair. Harsh brushing may cause the hair to pull and break. Since the hair is brittle, it is prone to breakage and you have to be very gentle. You may get the chemo curls cut and try a one inch buzz, but the hair near the roots will still remain curly. Therefore, it is better to wait until your hair has grown to at least three inches before you cut them or style them.