Some chemotherapy (chemo) medications can damage the cells that cause hair to grow. This can lead to hair loss, called alopecia. You may also lose your eyebrows, eyelashes, and other hair on your body. Or you may see your hair get thinner instead of losing it completely. Hair loss typically begins 2 or 3 weeks after the first chemo treatment. The good news is that hair loss is almost always temporary. Hair usually grows back about 2 to 3 months after chemo has been completed.
Coping With Hair Loss
Hair loss can be upsetting. It may feel that it exposes you as being a cancer patient or makes you less attractive. Here are a few tips to help you cope with the temporary loss of hair:
- Consider cutting your hair before it falls out. Going through losing your hair is sometimes worse than dealing with it once it's gone.
- Shop for a wig before your hair is gone, especially if you wish to match your natural color. Some insurance companies will cover the cost of a wig. Talk with your insurer, and ask your doctor for a prescription for the wig. Your care team may also have tips on dealing with insurance for wigs.
- Remember to cover your head or use sunscreen on your scalp in the sun.
- Try on hats and scarves.
- The American Cancer Society's program "Look Good...Feel Better" has information about wigs and head coverings. Call 1-800-395-LOOK or visit lookgoodfeelbetter.org.
Ask Your Doctor:
- Is chemo likely to make me lose my hair?
- If I do lose any hair, will it grow back?
- How can I find out where to buy a wig?
- Will my hair be different when it grows back?
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A Closer Look: Kelly*
|Kelly is treated for Hodgkin's lymphoma over several aggressive chemo sessions.|
|At just 21 years old, Kelly takes chemo as a blow to her confidence.|
|Her hair becomes very thin and falls out in patches.|
|She chooses an expensive wig to match her pre-chemo hair. Her care team helps Kelly get her insurance to pay for it.|
|Kelly finds that she hates wearing the wig. It reminds her that she has cancer.|
|She crops her hair very close and starts wearing a baseball cap to class. This makes her feel like her sporty, perky self.|
|About 3 months after her last chemo session, her hair grows back.|
*This is a fictional case study based on chemo patient experiences. Your experience is unique. Your doctor and care team will create a plan that will best treat your type of cancer and manage your chemo side effects.
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The Chemotherapy and Infection Discussion Guide can help you understand your
risk of infection
Infection can be a serious side effect of strong chemo. Find out the factors that affect your risk of infection. Simply answer a few questions, and then print your results to share with your doctor.
Use the Chemotherapy and Infection Discussion Guide to find out more.
How Cells Divide and How Chemotherapy WorksWATCH VIDEO >