Tips to deal with hair loss during cancer treatment

Author : Dr. C N Patil 

HOD and Lead Consultant - Medical Oncology & Haemato-Oncology, Aster RV Hospital 

One of the most common cancer symptoms is hair loss. Along with being an upsetting physical symptom, it can also be distressing emotionally. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy etc. impact cell growth leading to hair loss. These treatment methods may be used for treating different kinds of cancers such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, and prostate cancer.

For some, the hair loss may be sudden or gradual. Additionally, it may affect hair all over your body including the head, face, arms, legs, and pubic area. Managing these side effects can help you stay positive through your cancer treatment.

Hair loss with cancer is almost inevitable. However, taking active steps at different parts of your treatment can help you cope with this situation better and lessen the stress of it.

Before Treatment

Avoid styling products and procedures

Using chemicals or subjecting your hair to excess heat and other styling procedures can further weaken them.

Shift to natural and gentle products and avoid styling your hair in any way to maximize their strength before the treatment.

Get a cooling cap

Lacing a cold cap on your head can reduce the effect of chemotherapy on your hair follicles. However, as people tend to feel cold when they have cancer, check that your care team at the best cancer hospital in Bangalore has the setup to support this.

Cut your hair short

Thinning hair appears less of a problem in shorter hair. Further, the clumps of hair may be more in longer hair which can also affect your emotional state. Get a neat no-fuss cut to make your hair appear fuller.

Consider a wig

Hair loss may occur in different ways but it is practically inevitable. Ask your care team for alternatives such as a wig and don’t wait till later to buy one as you may be too weak. Also, look into financial help as some insurance policies may cover this expense.

During Treatment

Every time you comb or brush your hair, you may notice more of it falling out. At this time, try and be as gentle as you can. Use mild shampoos and let your hair air-dry.

Cancer is not just a physically exhausting disease but an emotional one as well. The emotional stress of the condition can further elevate this condition. Look for support in cancer groups, friends, and family. You can also ask your care team for stress relief solutions such as meditation or yoga based on your health condition. Research has shown that social support is of utmost importance in patients to cope with cancer and hair loss to avoid long-term depression.

After Treatment

Cover your scalp

Your scalp may be highly sensitive to temperature changes after chemotherapy. Consider using hats and scarves to protect it when you step out. A cotton cap may also help you sleep better at night.

Wash your hair gently

Unless you choose to shave your head, you will have some sections of hair left. Use mild and gentle cleansers to wash your hair. Also, use a baby brush to gently comb them. Check with your care team about which products are allowed and which should be avoided.

Don’t lose hope

After your cancer treatment, your hair will start to grow back, though it may take some time. You may also notice a different texture than before. Be patient as it happens. Continue your gentle care and avoid any rough movements or styling products at this time.

Hair loss is a common cancer symptom often caused by chemotherapy treatment. While this cannot be prevented, it can be managed to help you cope better. For a lot of people, hair loss can be devastating at an emotional level as it can hamper one’s self-esteem and confidence. Additionally, it often serves as a constant reminder of having to deal with cancer.

Talk to your care team honestly about your concerns and possible solutions to manage it better. There are several solutions in the market. Your care team can help offer you the resources to make an informed decision that best suits you.