Alopecia – Hair Loss

Why does chemotherapy cause hair loss?

Chemotherapy works by killing cancer cells. It can also affect normal cells such as your hair by damaging the hair follicles that are responsible for your hair growth. Not all chemotherapy causes hair loss. Ask your doctor or nurse if your treatment is likely to cause hair loss. Some treatments can also cause you to lose hair from other parts of your body like your eyebrows or eyelashes, underarms or pubic area.

When will I lose my hair?

Hair loss can begin 10 to 21 days after the first treatment. Hair loss can be sudden or slow. Your scalp may feel prickly or sore just before your hair falls out. You may lose some or all of your hair, or it may become thin. It is unlikely your hair will all fall out all at once, it usually falls out in clumps. To manage this more simply, some people have their hair cut shorter and some have their hair shaved.

Will my hair grow back?

Yes, hair loss is almost always temporary. The length of time it takes to grow back varies from person to person. Many people report seeing hair growth around four to six weeks after the end of treatment. The hair that grows back may be a different colour or texture.

Can I do anything to help?

Unfortunately there is nothing you can do to stop your hair from falling out. It is normal to feel distressed about losing your hair and it may change the way you feel about yourself. If your feelings are stopping you from doing important things, you may benefit from discussing these feelings with your doctor or nurse. Consider attending a "Look good feel better workshop" or think about getting a wig, hat, turban or scarf early in your treatment. If you know your hair is going to fall out you may want to get a wig that matches your current style or colour. Your local cancer council or clinic should be able to tell you the best place to buy a wig.

How do I take care of my hair and scalp while on chemotherapy?

Your hair will be brittle while you are having chemotherapy, consider avoiding things that may damage your hair like perms, hair dryers, hair straighteners or heated rollers.

Take care of your hair and scalp by using a mild shampoo, a wide tooth comb or soft brush.

Protect your scalp from the sun by wearing a hat or scarf or a factor 30 sun block while outside