Jade Goody’s cancer crusade has come under further strain as she battles with hair loss, one of the psychologically traumatising side effects of chemotherapy. Following a hysterectomy to remove her womb and ovaries as well as a rugby ball-sized tumour, she had already been given intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy. But Jade’s finding losing her hair to be the most shocking factor yet in her battle with cervical cancer.
“You’d think I would have been prepared for it, wouldn’t you? But somehow it just made everything feel so real,” she told the Mirror.
Jade’s hair started to thin earlier this month but when it started to come out in clumps, she found the imminent condition harder to deal with.
“I was wailing and screaming. It was awful,” she said. “Within three days it had all gone except for a couple of spiky strands.”
Jade explains the crushing effect hair loss can have on your self esteem: “Even men whose hair starts to recede admit it affects their self-confidence. But for a woman, hair is what makes them feminine, it is very hard to come to terms with it.”
Chemotherapy works by killing rapidly growing cancer cells and because it can’t discriminate between the cells it destroys, it often kills normal, healthy cells like those found in hair follicles. Hair loss can start anywhere from the first few days to within a few weeks of treatment. The degree of hair loss can vary from mild thinning to total hair loss and can occur on all parts of the body but it is not permanent and will usually grow back after the treatment has ended. The time it takes to regrow hair can vary widely, from three to 12 months and occasionally can be slightly different in terms of colour and texture, it’s possible to regain a full head of hair after three to six months.
Radiotherapy can also cause hair loss, again as a result of damaged hair follicles. Unlike chemotherapy however, hair will only be lost from the area being treated with radiotherapy. This hair loss again is usually temporary and will regrow after treatment. However, the speed and thickness of regrowth is dependent on the length of treatment and the quantity of radiotherapy received. On average it takes between six and twelve months after treatment has finished.
There is no known way to prevent chemotherapy-induced hair loss, however not all chemotherapy medications cause hair loss and whether or not one loses their hair depends in part on the specific medication and dosage administered. Other contributing factors include individual sensitivity to the medication and past drug treatment. If hair loss is a possibility, consulting a specialist regarding temporary hair replacement may be an option until full regrowth occurs. Consulting someone before the treatment starts means they will be able to closely match the color, style, and texture of your own hair.