Hair loss is not caused by cancer, but it is a very common side-effect of the treatments that are used to try to cure the disease. Chemotherapy and radiation are the two most common forms of cancer treatment and both can lead to hair loss. However, the damage is rarely permanent.
The extent of hair loss caused by cancer treatments varies between patients, from patchy hair loss to complete baldness. Depending on the type of treatment, it may happen suddenly or the hair fall may progress over a number of weeks.
How Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy Cause Hair Loss
Hair loss caused by chemotherapy happens gradually, usually one to three weeks after beginning treatment. The drugs used to attack the cancer cells often kill the healthy cells along the way, including hair cells. By preventing the hair cells from dividing, chemotherapy drugs progressively lead to hair thinning and as the shaft breaks away from the scalp, severe hair loss.
Hair loss caused by radiation therapy is often immediate. High-energy radiation rays can damage the hair follicles when they are directed on the scalp and cause the hair to fall out. Depending on the amount of radiation received, it is possible that hair loss may be permanent.
Treating Hair Loss Caused by Cancer Treatments
Natural hair growth usually resumes within a year for more than three-quarters of patients whose cancer therapies led to hair loss. Sometimes though, the cancer therapy may have damaged the hair follicle to such a degree that hair growth is hindered even after treatment has stopped. The trauma may have even triggered genetic hair loss.
Depending on the extent of follicle damage, a treatment program based primarily around formulations of clinically proven hair loss products may provide relief by stimulating growth and maintaining strong, healthy hair. These are also especially effective in preventing further hair loss where heredity is a factor.
In most cases, the condition of the hair is the same as it used to be but there are instances where it grows back thinner and sometimes the texture is different. To ensure optimum hair quality and strength, proper nutrition is essential. Sometimes a hair supplement can help but you should consult your GP first.
Are There Cancer Treatments That Don’t Cause Hair Loss?
Researchers have developed a way to deliver drugs which can inactivate cancer-causing genes in tumour cells. They are currently investigating the feasibility of combining this technology with low dose chemotherapeutic agents in cancer treatments, but scalp cooling machines are presently being used at some major specialist cancer centres to help prevent hair loss in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Ask your doctor for more information.
If you’re concerned about hair loss caused by cancer treatments, contact The Belgravia Centre on 020 7730 6666 or send an email for more information about how to accelerate hair growth after chemotherapy or radiation.