The Headstrong group in Dennistoun, Glasgow, has been established to help cancer patients learn how to deal with hair loss caused by their treatment.
The group is run by Breast Cancer Care, in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, and is open to men and women who are dealing with any kind of cancer. They aim to give people practical tips on living with hair loss, covering things like how to look after their scalp following chemotherapy treatment and different ways to tie a headscarf. The free service is run with the help of volunteer hair loss consultants.
The emotional impact of hair loss can be devastating, and for many people, particularly women, the thought of losing all their hair can be one of the most difficult aspects of cancer to come to terms with.
One of the volunteer consultants remarked:
“It’s almost like loss of identity, especially for a woman. It’s not about going bald or losing hair gradually. In many cases it happens very suddenly.”
The service aims to give people the ability to manage this side effect of cancer treatment by teaching them how to give their scalps adequate care and treatment. They can also receive advice on alternatives to wigs, such as headscarves.
Helen Shearer, Macmillan service delivery manager, said:
“If they start losing their hair through their treatment then obviously if there’s some way they can get assistance to help them feel better it will give them confidence to feel better about themselves.”
The free service is currently in its 6-month pilot stage, and organisers hope that its popularity will grow so that it can continue to help those in the community.
Why does chemotherapy cause hair loss?
Chemotherapy works by introducing powerful drugs into the body that attack rapidly growing cancer cells. However, these drugs also attack healthy cells, sometimes including those which are responsible for producing hair. As a result, many people who undergo chemotherapy report hair loss as one of the side effects of their treatment.
Chemotherapy may cause hair loss to other parts of the body – not just the scalp. This can include eyelashes, eyebrows, pubic and other body hair.