| Last Modified: January 17, 2012
A common side effect of chemotherapy is hair loss (alopecia). This article answers questions about hair loss and offers tips for coping with this condition. Are you 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 complete 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. This does not prevent hair loss and may actually decrease the ability of the chemotherapy to kill cancer cells in this area.
How should I care for my hair while receiving chemotherapy?
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.
Can I get help paying for a wig for when I lose my hair from chemotherapy?
Some health insurance policies cover the cost of wigs; you just have to know their language—usually they are referred to as "cranial hair replacement." You should contact your insurance company first to see if you have any coverage. You may need to ask your healthcare provider for a prescription in order to get reimbursement.
Secondly, the American Cancer Society in some areas can help to cover the cost of a wig up to $75. You should also see if your oncologist's office has a copy of the "TLC" catalog, which is published by the American Cancer Society and offers a wide selection of lovely wigs, turbans and head coverings.
Why am I so upset about my hair loss?
It is normal to be upset about hair loss from cancer treatment. It may affect 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.