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Hair Growth after Radiation to the Head

Hair Growth after Radiation to the Head

Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I have undergone thirty radiation treatments to part of my brain and completed radiation about two months ago. I lost a significant amount of hair after the first couple of weeks of treatment, and was bald basically from the top of the ears upward. Over the past month, however, hair on the sides and back of my head has grown back significantly full. However, only part of the top of my head has regrown hair. Can I expect to regrow hair on what remains bald? Or is what I have now an indication of all [that] I can expect to get back?

Answer

Robert Lustig MD FACR, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Hair regrowth on the very top of the scalp is often thinner after radiation.

This is because the radiation beams are often tangential to the top of the scalp, thereby giving a higher dose to that area. Higher dose can mean more likelihood of permanent damage to the hair follicles in that area, and therefore less hair regrowth after therapy compared to the sides and back of the head, where the radiation beams are more directly aimed.

Having said this, it is still too early to be certain of the amount of regrowth, as this process can continue for approximately another 3-6 months.