What is hair loss?
Hair loss or alopecia is a common side effect of cancer treatment. The medical term for hair loss is alopecia. It can happen as a side effect of chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, or a stem cell (bone marrow) transplant. These cancer treatments can harm the cells that help hair grow. It can affect hair all over your body, including your head, face, arms, legs, underarms, and pubic area. Lost hair usually grows back after cancer and treatment. But sometimes, hair stays thin.
How bad is my hair loss?
MIld: Hair loss of <50% of normal for that individual that is not obvious from a distance but only on close inspection; a different hairstyle may be required to cover the head but it does not require a wig or hairpiece to camouflage.
Moderate to severe: Hair loss of >=50% is normal for that individual that is readily apparent to others; a wig or hairpiece is necessary if the patient desires to completely camouflage the hair loss; associated with psychosocial
How to manage mild hair loss or alopecia?
- You may choose to cut your hair shorter. A shorter hairstyle may make thin hair look fuller.
- Some people decide to shave their head in advance. This can help wigs or other head coverings fit better.
- If you want to wear a scarf, hat, or other head coverings, get some of those items in advance. This can make you feel more prepared for when it starts happening.
- Some people choose to not cover their thinning hair or bald head, finding it more comfortable or easier to manage in daily life.
- Choose a gentle, fragrance-free shampoo. Avoid washing your hair every day. Wash gently. If your hair tangles, consider using products like a gentle conditioner or detangler spray.
- Pat your hair dry to prevent damage. Avoid pulling on your hair as much as possible. Style it gently with a soft brush or wide-toothed comb.
- When outdoors, use sun protection on your scalp, such as sunscreen, a hat, or a scarf.
- Avoid high-heat styling, chemical curling or straightening, and permanent or semi-permanent hair color.
- Choose a soft, smooth pillowcase.
- Talk with your health care team if you are interested in taking biotin, a type of B vitamin.
How to manage moderate to severe hair loss?
Seek medical help if you
- Have sudden hair fall
- Develop bald patches
- Are losing hair in clumps
- Have itching in head
What are the causes?
- Radiation therapy
- Hormonal therapy
- Targeted therapy
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