Chemotherapy is a form of cancer treatment which uses anti-cancer drugs to attack cancer cells and disrupt their growth. However, this form of treatment can also have an effect on the body’s healthy cells, including the hair follicles, and this can lead to hair loss.
Chemotherapy is not a single treatment: Depending on the type and stage of cancer, one or more of a range of chemotherapy drugs may be prescribed. Furthermore, not everybody responds to the treatment in the same way: therefore, although hair loss is possible, it is not inevitable. Your nurse or doctor will make you aware of the side effects of your treatment, including the possibility of hair loss.
For those who do experience hair loss during chemotherapy, the degree can vary from person to person. For some people, only a tiny amount of hair may be lost, and this will be barely noticeable. Others may find their hair is dry, brittle and breaks more easily than normal. It’s fairly common to experience partial or complete hair loss, and there are some chemotherapy drugs which will also cause loss of body hair including the eyebrows, eyelashes, underarm and pubic hair.
When does hair loss begin?
Because the amount of hair lost depends on the way your body responds to the combination of drugs in question, there is no set timescale for hair loss when undergoing chemotherapy. However, for most people, hair loss first becomes noticeable within two to three weeks of chemotherapy commencing, although it may start as soon as 24 hours after your first treatment. The impact on your hair follicles varies from person to person, so whilst some may simply find they are gradually losing their hair over a period of weeks, others may lose all their hair very quickly over a one to two day period, which can be very distressing.
Taking steps to prevent hair loss from chemotherapy
Those undergoing chemotherapy may be offered scalp cooling treatments, wearing a cold cap to help reduce the amount of drugs reaching the hair follicles. This can reduce, and in some cases prevent hair loss. There are two types of cold caps; heavier, gel filled caps or lighter caps containing liquid coolant.
Whilst you probably won’t know whether or not you will be affected by hair loss until your chemotherapy has commenced, the good news is that this type of hair loss is only temporary. For most people, hair grows back once treatment has finished, although it may take between three and six months to grow a full head of hair, as initial regrowth will be fine. It’s very rare that hair does not grow back after chemotherapy.
The Belgravia Centre
The Belgravia Centre is the UK’s leading hair loss clinic, with two locations in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation or complete our online diagnostic form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our extensive hair loss success stories gallery, which is the largest collection of ‘Before & After’ treatment pictures in the world, demonstrating the levels of success that so many of our patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.