The kind of hair loss caused by chemotherapy treatment is widely reported, but what surprises many is that when locks do grow back (as they usually do) they are often rather different to those that a patient used to know and love.
Frequently, hair comes back curly, which can be extremely surprising when someone has had straight hair all their life. Equally bewildering is the fact that new growth is quite often darker, too.
Experts are not 100 per cent sure why changes in texture happen, though a darkening may be explained by the chemotherapy process temporarily causing hair to grow more slowly, thus exposing it to more pigment.
In an article on the NBC news website, Dr Jyoti Patel, an oncologist in Illinois, said that doctors weren’t sure what made hair grow back curly, but speculated that “we think that it has to do with chemotherapy effects getting out of the system.”
“All my patients say they got the permanent (perm) they never wanted,” she added. “The texture is often difficult to manage, and tends to be really wiry and difficult to style.”
British charity Breast Cancer Care has a full page of advice about hair loss from chemotherapy - known as anagen effluvium - on its website, and notes that once-curly hair can become straighter, too.
Changes in texture, it notes, can be permanent in some cases, and explains that this can be difficult to deal with. “You may feel it is another change to your appearance you need to cope with, especially if you’re not able to treat or style your hair in the way you always have done,” writes the charity.
Tips pertaining to hair loss from cancer treatment on the charity's website include:
Senior Belgravia hair loss specialist, Leonora Doclis adds, "Even if the hair does change in texture when it grows back after chemo, it should only take a couple of hair growth cycles for the hair to return to its usual state. This is also true for people who find their hair grows back a different colour - it can be darker but can also be lighter too."
There is little doubt that losing hair as a result of chemotherapy treatment can be distressing, and it is for this very reason that several companies around the world have developed scalp-chilling devices calls cold caps. These can be worn on the head immediately before, during and after chemotherapy, and by cooling the scalp they reduce blood supply to the hair follicles, meaning that their exposure to cancer drugs is minimised.
Cold caps don’t work in every case, nor are they suitable for all types of treatment, but data provided by the companies that make them, including UK firm Paxman, shows that they have helped people to keep their hair on numerous occasions.
The Belgravia Centre is a world-renowned group of a hair loss clinic in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation from anywhere in the world for home-use treatment.
View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world's largest gallery of hair growth photos and demonstrates the level of success that so many of Belgravia's patients achieve.