Why Does Chemotherapy Cause Hair Loss?


One question that we are asked regularly and that is why does Chemotherapy cause Hair loss? To answer this question and to learn more about this subject, then check out our post and explanation below which is explained in simple layman terms of how exactly Chemotherapy causes hair loss in both men and women.

Unfortunately, one of the most common side effects of cancer treatment is hair loss and this condition is also known as Alopecia. It comes as a side effect of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy or bone marrow/stem cell therapy. For some people, losing their hair can be a depressing and devastating occurrence.

Genetic Hair Loss

Hair Loss is usually passed down genetically. It was said that baldness was inherited from the mother's side of the family, but now, it is believed that it can come from either side of the family. About 50 per cent of men by the age of 50 will have some degree of male pattern hair loss.  This is also coined as Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) or Male/Female Pattern Baldness as it may happen to both men and women. AGA is portrayed by a subsiding hairline and progressive vanishing of hair from the crown and frontal scalp.

AGA affects approximately 80% of Caucasian males. Although it is common in men of different ethnic backgrounds, Caucasian males are affected more frequently. Ladies with this condition don't encounter observable diminishing until their 40s or later.

Importance of Hair

You may not think about the importance of your hair until you face losing it. If you have cancer and are about to go through chemotherapy, losing your hair is a huge probability. Both male and female cancer patients consider hair loss as one of the side effects they fear most after being diagnosed with cancer. Baldness is considered to be a universal symbol that indicates an individual has cancer, and most cancer patients fear this side effect the most.

Your doctor can tell you whether your particular chemotherapy treatment is likely to cause hair loss. This allows you to plan ahead for head coverings or treatments to reduce hair loss. Talking to a support group or your cancer care group may help with coping up.

Hair Loss from Chemotherapy - How Does It Happen?

Hair loss happens in light of the fact that chemotherapy focuses on all rapidly separating cells (healthy cells and cancer cells). Hair follicles, the structures in the skin loaded up with minor veins that grow hair, are the absolute quickest developing cells in the body. In case you're not in cancer treatment, your hair follicles separate every 23 to 72 hours.

Be that as it may, as the chemo accomplishes its neutralization of cancer cells, it also annihilates hair cells. Within half a month of beginning chemotherapy, you may lose a few or all of your hair. Hair loss may occur throughout the body, including the head hair, facial hair, as well as hair in the arms, legs, underarms, and even in the pubic area. Hair may fall out entirely, progressively, or in sections. If you need help in growing your hair back again, then check out my recommended list here.

Scalp cryotherapy

Fortunately, not all chemotherapy causes hair loss! Make sure to have a talk with your health care team before your cancer treatment begins to find out if your treatment is likely to cause hair loss. It also depends on the drugs you’ll be taking and its dosages whether or not your hair remains as it is, thins or falls out. It also depends on whether you receive the medications as a pill, into a vein, or on the skin. As the years progressed, attempts to diminish balding have been made, by utilizing tight bands or ice caps.

This is also known as scalp cryotherapy.  While these methods may diminish pattern baldness by lessening blood stream to the scalp and restricting chemotherapy exposure to hair follicles, there is a theoretical worry that this could decrease the viability of treatment on that area. But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have already approved that a cold cap may help prevent hair loss during chemotherapy for both men and women.

Temporary Hair Solution Recommendations:

Hair Loss Process

Hair does not fall out immediately after you start chemotherapy. Most of the time, it starts to fall after many weeks, after cycles of treatment. Hair loss is bound to increase 1 to 2 months into treatment. This is due to the time it takes for chemotherapy drugs to completely vacate the body and stop attacking the healthy dividing cells.

Radiation Therapy

Another kind of cancer treatment is Radiation Therapy. Radiation therapy only affects the area where it is aimed at. For example, if a patient is to be given radiation therapy to the pelvis, you could probably lose hair in the pubic area. Hair loss depends on the dose and method of radiation therapy. Hair usually grows back in the area of radiation therapy after several months, but it may grow back in a different texture. In some cases with very high dosages of radiation therapy, hair might probably not grow back at all.

Hormonal Therapy

Another treatment is Hormonal Therapy. A very small amount of people receiving hormonal therapy will have obvious thinning of hair. It regularly begins more than a few months up to years after starting treatment with some types of hormonal therapy. But this kind of therapy does not usually cause complete hair loss.

Your Hair Grows Back!

But worry not! It’s a known fact that hair loss caused by chemotherapy is usually temporary. Your hair will grow over time, but your "new" hair will possibly have a slightly different texture as it may feel a bit coarser and thinner. It may also have a slightly different color, as well as a different curl. Right after chemotherapy, your hair will grow in a thin fuzzy texture which might give you a hard time to style it.

Cranial Prosthesis

Comfort should be your top priority in managing your hair loss. Wigs - If you plan on using a wig after the treatment, the best time to prepare it is before you start losing any hair. This helps the stylist create what’s best suited for you. Some insurance companies even cover expenses for a wig, so remember to have it written as a prescription from your doctor. It is usually written as "cranial prosthesis".  There are even some wig stylists specializing in wigs for patients that have alopecia.

Applying minoxidil, a drug approved for hair loss, to your scalp before and during chemotherapy will probably not do anything to prevent your hair loss, but it may speed up your hair regrowth. Check out my own recommended list below.


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