Teenager Maria Walton, 15, from Castle Bromwich, made the brave decision to ditch her wig when she lost her hair to chemotherapy treatment earlier this year. She did so to help remove the stigma that she feels still surrounds cancer patients who have lost their hair.
Taking a stand
Maria’s hair was once thick and fell to her waist; in the past, she had only ever had it trimmed. In 2012, she noticed large bruises appearing on her body. After suffering from a rash and loss of appetite, she was told she had meningitis. She underwent further blood tests, which eventually revealed she was suffering from leukaemia.
Maria was immediately put on a course of chemotherapy and, within two weeks, she started to notice she was losing her hair.
Eventually, Maria lost all her hair and became completely bald, but received a donated wig to conceal her hair loss. However, she then made the bold decision not to wear it.
Maria’s mum, also called Maria, explained:
“When Maria was diagnosed with cancer it was such a terrible thing to hear. She read a book written by a child who had cancer. It explained more about the hair loss, and then it hit her. She picked herself up and was given a wig. She wore it once, then decided that she wouldn’t wear it again because she wanted to help remove the stigma of hair loss in cancer patients.”
Chemotherapy and hair loss
The anti-cancer drugs used in chemotherapy aim to destroy cancer cells, but unfortunately they can also harm the body’s healthy cells, including hair follicles. Some chemotherapy drugs may cause only a small amount of hair loss, whilst others may cause total baldness. Cancer patients may find that some drugs cause hair loss from other parts of the body too, such as pubic hair, underarm hair, eyelashes or eyebrows.
There are treatments available which may help to prevent or reduce hair loss caused by chemotherapy, such as wearing a cold cap. This works by chilling the scalp and reducing circulation, preventing chemotherapy drugs from reaching the hair follicles. However, these treatments are not offered by all hospitals and cold caps can be uncomfortable to wear.
The hair loss caused by chemotherapy is usually temporary, and when treatment finishes, hair will normally begin to grow back, although it may be a different colour and texture than it was before.
The Belgravia Centre
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