Gale Snyder-Port RN, MSN, OCN, CNA, Janice Gibson, RN, MSN, OCN and Kathleen Spurrier, RNC, OCN
Last Modified: April 13, 2009
General questions about hair loss due to cancer treatment.
Gale Snyder-Port RN, MSN, OCN, CNA, Janice Gibson, RN, MSN, OCN and Kathleen Spurrier, RNC, OCN of the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania respond:
A common side effect of chemotherapy is hair loss. This "Helpful Facts" sheet answer questions about hair loss and offers alternatives for coping with this condition. Looking for information on Radiation therapy and hair loss?
Why does chemotherapy cause hair loss?
Chemotherapy attacks cells in our body that are rapidly growing, such as cancer cells. Some normal cells that also grow rapidly, like hair cells, are also affected.
Does all chemotherapy cause hair loss?
When will the hair loss occur?
Hair loss usually begins 2 weeks after your first treatment. Some people notice achiness or tingling of the scalp as the hair loss begins. If complete hair loss is expected, the hair may come out in large amounts and is usually completed within 3-7days.
Is the hair loss permanent?
Hair loss caused by chemotherapy is usually temporary. Your hair will start to regrow after your treatment is completed. Some people experience a small amount of regrowth during treatment. Most people experience significant hair re-growth 3-5 months after treatment is completed. It is common for hair to grow back curlier and a slightly different color.
Can I apply ice packs to my scalp to decrease hair loss?
No. It generally does not work. It may actually decrease the ability of the chemotherapy to kill cancer cells in this area.
Should I get a wig?
Consider scarves, turbans and hats to conceal hair loss.
They are cooler, can be more comfortable and overall require less care than wigs. There are many attractive, stylish, and creative head covers available.
Why am I so upset about my hair loss?
It is normal to be upset about hair loss from cancer treatment. It may effect how you feel about yourself. It is also a visible reminder of your cancer. Share your feelings with your doctor, nurse, family and friends. There are many educational and supportive programs available.
The The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania's Boutique on 14 Penn Tower, has a range of choices in wigs, hats and scarves, as well as breast prostheses and other specialty items. If you would like to schedule an appointment to be fitted for a wig, or to talk to our Boutique Manager, please call 215-662-7900, or stop in the Boutique - our hours are 9 am - 5 pm Monday through Friday.