Why Does Preventative Chemotherapy Cause Hair Loss? Know Ways To Manage

If you have cancer and are about to start chemotherapy, the chance of hair loss is very real. People with cancer report hair loss as one of the most important side effects as they face cancer treatment. Read on to know why it happens and a few easy ways to manage the situation.
hair loss

Doctors say preventive chemotherapy kills the dividing cancer cells, along with normal body tissues such as the hair follicles, leading to your hair falling out

Preventive chemotherapy – also known as adjuvant therapy, is a course of anti-cancer drugs that are given to mop up any cancer cells that might remain in the body after primary cancer treatment, which is usually surgical removal of a tumour.
According to experts, the therapy reduces the risk of the original cancer coming back and spreading to other body parts. However, it does come with side effects – most of which include hair loss or thinning.
Cancer Research, UK explains that even though hair loss is a common side effect of the treatment, it is not caused by preventive chemotherapy, but only slightly triggers it.

How does hair loss happen?

Doctors say preventive chemotherapy kills the dividing cancer cells, along with normal body tissues such as the hair follicles, leading to your hair falling out.
In many patients, the treatment also causes alopecia – an autoimmune disease that attacks your body’s hair follicles, causing patchy hair loss. Medications and therapies can help your hair regrow, though severe cases may not respond to any treatment.
According to doctors, complete hair loss after the treatment happens gradually, and hair also falls out in clumps. Apart from the hair on your scalp, you may experience a heavy effect on your eyelashes, eyebrows, pubic hair, underarm hair, and even chest hair.
However, hair loss also depends on several things, including:
  • The type of drug or combination of drugs you are prescribed
  • The dosage of medicine
  • Your sensitivity to the drug
  • Your drug treatment in the past

When does hair grow back after chemotherapy?

Doctors say it may take several weeks after treatment for your hair to recover and begin growing again, mostly 3-6 months after your treatment ends.
When your hair starts to grow back, it will probably be slightly different from the hair you lost, but the difference is usually temporary.
According to experts, your new hair may have a different texture or colour and can be curlier, since the cells that control the pigment in your hair begin working again.

Best ways to care for hair during chemotherapy

While hair loss during and after treatment cannot be prevented, it can be managed. You may consider the following actions to help you cope with hair loss during treatment:

Be gentle with your hair

Stop bleaching, colouring or any kind of treatment on your hair as it can weaken the roots. Also, avoid heating devices like curling irons and hot rollers. Make sure to use a soft brush and wash them only, when necessary, with a chemical-free shampoo.

Cut your hair

Short hair looks fuller than longer hair and even if you have drastic hair fall, it will not be as noticeable and would help to ease the transition.

Cover your head

You can wear a cap or a scarf to hide your hair loss.

Shave your head

Your scalp may feel itchy, sensitive, and irritated during treatments while your hair is falling out. Shaving your head can reduce irritation and save you from shedding.

Protect your scalp from UV rays

Make sure to apply sunscreen daily.
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