It's very common for people undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatment to lose their hair. Chemotherapy drugs are designed to attack quickly growing cells in the body, such as cancer cells. However, chemotherapy drugs cannot differentiate between healthy cells and cancer cells; they also attack quickly growing cells that are supposed to be there, like hair cells. When chemotherapy drugs attack the hair cells, hair stops growing and can fall out -- not just on the head but all over the body.
Hair loss can be a difficult side effect for people undergoing cancer treatment. It affects the way people feel about themselves when going out in public and serves as a very public display of a person's health difficulties. There have been no proven ways to stop hair loss during chemotherapy, but there are several methods patients can use to slow it.
Rogaine is a drug that, when applied to the scalp, is designed to stop natural hair loss. Although it does not stop hair loss during chemotherapy, it is possible that application of Rogaine can speed up hair regrowth once a patient's chemotherapy treatments are completed.
During chemotherapy treatments, some patients choose to put ice packs or chemo cold caps on their scalp. The cold temperatures constrict the blood vessels in the scalp, reducing bloodflow, and thereby reducing the amount of chemotherapy drugs that reach the scalp and hair follicles. Although chemo cold caps will not prevent hair loss, it may slow it. Doctors caution, however, that the practice could lead to cancer reoccurring in the scalp because the blood vessel constriction doesn't allow it to get a proper dose of chemotherapy drugs.
Before chemotherapy begins, patients can take steps to manage their expected hair loss. They should get in the habit of being gentle with their hair. This is not the time for hard brushing or harsh chemical treatments, like perms or dyes. Many patients also choose to cut their hair. Shorter hair tends to look fuller than longer hair, so hair loss will be less noticeable. The practice also could help patients transition from having long hair to experiencing total hair loss. Before, during and after chemotherapy, patients should use only a soft brush and wash their hair only when necessary. This is the perfect time to drop the daily hair washing habit.
Some patients find hair loss to be an annoying thing to deal with and prefer to just shave it all off as hair loss begins. These patients may choose to pick up a few beautiful headscarves to wear during their treatments that make them feel good and shout to the world that they are warriors determined to win.