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  5. How To Deal With Hair Loss From Chemotherapy?

If you have just undergone chemotherapy and successfully defeated cancer, you have already won the major part of the battle! Now, hair regrowth is not going to be such a huge challenge for you. It's just a matter of pampering yourself with extra care for a few more months.

Even if you are about to go for chemotherapy, awareness about hair regrowth in advance will make you more comfortable to face the treatment. This article helps you get a clear idea of what happens to your hair during chemo and how to take good care of it throughout the process.

Why Does Chemotherapy Cause Hair Loss?

Cancer occurs when cells multiply rapidly and uncontrollably in a specific part of the human body and spread to surrounding tissues. Old cells survive when they should die, and new cells form when they are not needed.

Chemotherapy treats cancer by infusing cytostatic drugs that aim to destroy abnormal cells or delay their growth. Unfortunately, the process impacts normal cells in other parts of the body. The good part is that normal cells can repair themselves, making the side effects temporary.

The stem cells in the bulge region of hair follicles naturally multiply rapidly, like cancer cells. As a side effect of chemotherapy, drugs affect the hair follicle stem cells (keratinocytes). The obstruction in the biological cell division of keratinocytes causes hair loss. [1]

cancer therapy with t-cell

Can Chemotherapy Cause Permanent Hair Loss?

It is estimated that 65% of people undergoing chemotherapy experience temporary hair fall, while others face minimal hair fall. In rare cases, like the application of radiation therapy on the scalp, it may result in permanent hair fall.

The degree to which hair loss develops after chemotherapy depends on the type of cancer, type of drug, and the dosage.

Remember that effectively treating cancer is the top priority. Talk to your doctor about hair loss before treatment to prepare for it. Fortunately, there are scientifically advanced methods available to cope up with your hair fall. [2]

According to a study conducted in 2019, out of 1470 people who underwent breast cancer chemotherapy, 80% of them regained substantial hair growth after 3-4 months. 13% of them regained hair growth before the completion of chemotherapy. The remaining few people had a slow regrowth even after six months.

Chemotherapy Hair Loss Timeline

1. Chemotherapy is a course that takes a series of 4-8 cycles in a period of 3-6 months to treat cancer.

2. Hair loss gradually starts showing up within 2 to 3 weeks after the first cycle of chemotherapy.

3. However, hair loss typically begins after the second infusion of the treatment.

4. Most people experience excess hair fall and diffuse hair thinning with a few bald patches on the scalp.

5.The phase of excessive hair loss often completes by the end of the course, and hair growth resumes around this point of time.

How To Prevent Hair Loss During Chemotherapy?

Scalp cooling is the only effective technique to avoid excess hair loss. It reduces blood flow to the scalp and limits chemotherapy exposure to your hair follicles.

Scalp cooling involves cold caps filled with a gel or dry ice to wear it on the patient's head before starting the treatment. It is continued during the treatment and shortly after the chemo drug administration.

Cold temperature temporarily constricts blood vessels in the scalp area, which means that the drug reaching the hair follicles is limited. If a lower percentage of chemo agents enter your scalp, it damages fewer hair follicles. Thus, the scalp cooling method during the chemotherapy process prevents excess hair loss. [3]

Which Chemo Drugs Cause Hair Loss?

The following Chemo drugs can cause hair loss. Please check with your doctor before planning the treatment.

Antitumor Antibiotics

 

  • Cosmegen (Dactinomycin)
  • Adriamycin or Doxil (Doxorubicin)
  • Idamycin (Idarubicin)

 

Topoisomerase Inhibitors

 

  • VePesid (Etoposide)
  • Camptosar (Irinotecan)

 

Antimicrotubule Agents

 

  • Taxol (Paclitaxel)
  • Taxotere (Docetaxel)
  • Ellence (Epirubicin)
  • Ixempra (Ixabepilone)
  • Ellence (Epirubicin)
  • Marqibo or Vincasar (Vincristine)
  • Alo Crest or Navelbine (Vinorelbine)

 

Antimetabolites

 

  • Efudex (Fluorouracil)
  • Gemzar (Gemcitabine)

 

Chemotherapy Hair Loss Tips

1. For Pre-Chemotherapy:

A. If your hair is habituated to chemical products, avoid their use at least three months before chemotherapy. Preventing external stressors helps your scalp to breathe and get ready to sustain the treatment.

B. Inform your doctor if you are intaking drugs related to other general health issues like thyroid and diabetes. In that case, your doctor will look into it to prescribe drugs that do not have interactions with your current medications. It protects your hair from adverse side effects.

C. Follow a systematic & balanced diet plan for three months before chemotherapy. Include natural immune boosters in your food that builds resilience to side effects like hair loss.

D. Please don't panic about your situation. Keep calm and release your mental stress by practicing outdoor yoga during sunrise or sunset. Besides, your body absorbs vitamin D from sunlight that strengthens your hair roots.

E. Use herbal hair care products that make your scalp healthy to fight excess hair loss.

F. Ask your doctor about cold cap treatment and make sure in advance that the cap fits your scalp correctly.

2. For Post-Chemotherapy:

A. If you have used a cold cap during the chemotherapy, do not wash your hair until three days after the treatment.

B. Do not wash your hair for more than twice a week. Use herbal shampoo to have a soothing effect on your scalp. Rinse your hair only with lukewarm water or cold water. Avoid having a hot shower.

C. Pat dry your hair with a muslin cloth. Don't use a hairdryer, or don't rub your hair with a turkey towel.

D. Don't comb or brush your wet hair. Remove tangles only after your hair is dry. Use a soft brush or wide-toothed plastic comb to handle your hair gently.

E. Don't wear hairstyles for which you have to pull your hair tightly and tie it with an elastic band, like that of a ponytail.

F. Avoid using chemical hair cosmetics like hair colors, dyes, perm, relaxers, and bleach during the initial stage of your hair regrowth.

G. Avoid hair straighteners, hairdryers, hot brushes, and heated rollers as they work by applying excess heat on your hair.

H. Do a gentle massage on your scalp regularly with your fingertips for ten minutes. Use an essential oil like peppermint oil (stimulates hair growth) mixed with a carrier oil like coconut oil.

I. Eat foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and high protein content to make your hair follicles healthier.

J. Whenever you go outdoors, cover your whole head with a scarf or a hat to protect your scalp from harsh sunlight and pollutants.

Vedix Tip : Avoid synthetic hair care products containing sulphates & parabens. They damage your hair follicles. Instead, use herbal hair care solutions for healthy regrowth of your hair.

Chemotherapy Hair Loss Regrowth

Hair regrowth after chemotherapy may be slower than usual. To support your hair follicles in order to regrow healthy hair, you need to make specific lifestyle changes. On top of it, having patience is essential because chemotherapy-induced hair loss regrowth does not happen in a fortnight.

Follow a consistent healthy routine for six months to see an overwhelming change in your hair growth.

Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix, says, "Herbal hair care helps release the stress in your hair follicles after chemotherapy. Regular head massage with essential oils stimulates blood circulation in your scalp tissues and activates your hair regrowth."

1. Head Massage With Essential Oils

A. Take ten drops of peppermint essential oil and mix it in a carrier oil like coconut oil.

B. Dilute five drops of Jatamansi essential oil into the solution.

C. Apply it on your scalp uniformly by spreading it all over with a gentle head massage.

D. Massage the scalp with your fingertips for 15-20 minutes.

E. Follow the head massage technique regularly for a few months to replenish your hair follicles.

2. Herbal Hair Mask

A. Take a bunch of hibiscus leaves and flowers and grind them using raw milk.

B. Squeeze the gel out of aloe vera leaves.

C. Mix both of them and bind them into a smooth paste.

D. Gently massage it evenly on your scalp and leave it for 30 minutes.

E. Rinse it off with lukewarm water.

Note: Head massage with herbal hair oils and herbal hair masks can soothe your scalp and strengthen your hair follicles. But, take the advice of your oncologist before experimenting with these treatments at your home.

When Does Hair Grow Back After Chemo?

2-3 weeks after Chemo

Light, soft, and frizzy hair starts to grow

1-2 months after Chemo

Growth of thicker hair begins

2-3 months after Chemo

Hair grows around one inch

3-6 months after Chemo

Hair grows around two to three inches

6-12 months after Chemo

You can see substantial hair growth

Radiation Therapy And Hair Loss

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation beams that intensely penetrate your body and focus on the affected body part, killing cancer cells and shrinking the tumor.

Radiation therapy causes hair loss only on the specific region on which it applies radiation. It does not affect your hair follicles unless or until the treatment is somewhere near your scalp area. However, supportive drugs may work on the healthy cells in the entire body, causing hair loss.

Undertaking chemotherapy or radiation therapy or a combination of both depends on the possible approach to treat the cancer type. Hair regrowth is expected and is standard in both the treatments.

What Percentage Of Chemo Patients Lose Their Hair?

According to a multicenter survey, the meantime of hair loss from chemotherapy is 18 days during the treatment. Average hair loss occurred in 99.9% of the patients undergoing chemotherapy, of which 65% of them faced excessive hair loss.

The mean time from completion of chemotherapy and the beginning of hair regrowth is 3.3 months. Scalp hair regrowth is successful in 98% of the patients. 47% of them used a wig for one year because of slow regrowth. The remaining people faced stunted hair growth for years. [4]

Do All Chemo Patients Experience Hair Loss?

Chemotherapy formulates a specific concentration of drugs according to the type and severity of cancer in an individual. It also relates to other health issues like diabetes, thyroid, and your overall immunity ranges.

Depending on the drug type and the intensity of medications, each patient experiences different hair loss levels. But almost 100% of chemo patients experience hair loss, differing in severity. [5]

The Last Word

Many people have fought hair loss from chemotherapy and regained it. Speak to your doctor regarding hair loss before planning the treatment. Please follow our pre and post-chemotherapy hair care tips to fight hair loss from chemotherapy efficiently.

Regular head massage with peppermint and Jatamansi extracts can improve your hair growth speed and your new hair's texture. Moreover, use a herbal shampoo to soothe your stressed scalp and handle your hair gently.

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