Tips for Managing Hair Loss

For many people, hair loss is a distressing aspect
of cancer treatment. Losing our hair can change
our sense of identify – that is, how we see
ourselves and how we relate to others; this in turn
affects our quality of life. If you are concerned
about hair loss, talk it over with a member of your
health care team. Your oncologist or oncology
nurse, for example, can tell you whether hair loss
is a possible side effect of your particular
treatment. He or she will also be able to point you
to resources available to help you cope.

Why does hair loss happen? Hair loss from
chemotherapy or radiation happens when hair
follicles are weakened by the treatment. This
causes your hair to fall out much more quickly
than it normally would.
When does hair loss happen? Depending on the type of treatment you receive,
hair loss may start anywhere from seven to 21 days after treatment begins.
Where does hair loss happen? Chemotherapy may lead to hair loss on your legs,
arms, underarms, pubic area, chest, eyelashes and eyebrows, in addition to your
head. Hair loss from radiation affects only the part of the body being treated.
Will my hair grow back? Your hair will start to grow back once you are finished
with treatment, but it may take six to 12 months to grow back completely. New
hair may even have a different texture – for example, curly hair can grow
back straight, and dark hair can grow in lighter. These changes are usually not
permanent. However, radiation sometimes causes permanent hair loss.

Buy a wig before all of your hair falls out. This way, you will have a good match to
your own hair color. Having a wig ahead of time will also help
you feel more prepared.
Get a professional fitting. There are full-service wig salons that fit and style wigs.
Some of these salons even specialize in hair loss from chemotherapy.
Use double-sided tape to keep your wig on. Many wigs have tape-tab materials
(called “stickies”) that let you use double-sided tape to hold your wig in place. Ask
your wig specialist for hypo-allergenic double-sided tape.

Consider wearing a scarf or turban. Wig salons often
sell turbans and scarves that come in a variety of
colors and fabrics. These can be worn out in public
instead of a wig, depending on your preference, or
for relaxing in your home.
Find out if your health insurance company covers the
cost of wigs. If so, remember to save your receipt. If
a wig is not covered by your insurance company,
save your receipt anyway; the purchase qualifies as a
medical tax deduction.
If you can't afford a wig, contact CancerCare.
We may be able to provide you with a free wig,
or we can refer you to an organization in your
community that provides them at no cost.

Talking to others who have experienced hair loss, or to individuals who have
professional experience in the matter, will help you during this difficult period. Here are
some suggestions:
• Join a support group. You'll get emotional support and feel less alone.
Plus, you can share valuable tips for coping and receive helpful guidance.
• Find a buddy who understands what you are going through. Call this person
when you're feeling sad or uncertain about what to do.
• Talk to a counselor or oncology social worker. Her or she can assist you in
finding resources, guide you through difficult decision-making, and help
you feel more in control.
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