Female hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy treatments for women with cancer. Chemotherapy and similar medical treatments, along with a host of other risk factors, can cause hair to thin or totally fall out. If are preparing to undertake a course of chemotherapy treatments and are worried about hair loss, a better understanding of chemotherapy medicines and what you can do with regard to the expected hair loss will help you know what to expect and how best to deal with it.
How Does Chemotherapy Cause Hair Loss?
Chemotherapy is an effective treatment of cancer that targets cancerous cells in the body. The medicines have different modes of actions depending on their chemical makeup, but they all essentially work by damaging the cells. Once damaged, the cells can no longer group or multiple. Unfortunately, chemotherapy often harms healthy cells including those responsible for hair growth. After chemotherapy treatments, you may notice thinning or loss of hair on any part of the body. This includes the head, face, arms, legs and even the pubic area.
Which Chemotherapy Medicines Cause Hair Loss?
Not all cancer treatments cause hair loss. It varies from patient to patient based on the risk factors as well as the medicines being taken. Chemotherapy medications differ by their chemical structure, mode of action and relationship with other medications. If you’re taking any of the following chemotherapy medicines, you may experience some level of hair loss:
- Alkylating Agents – damage the DNA in cells
- Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide)
- Hexalen (altretamine)
- Anthracyclines – anti-tumor antibiotics that bind to DNA to block enzymes
- Adriamycin (doxorubicin)
- Doxil (liposomal doxorubicin)
- Ellence (epirubicin)
- Antimetabolites – mimics the building blocks of DNA and RNA
- Gemzar (gemcitabine)
- Taxanes – stop cells from dividing
- Taxol (paclitaxel)
- Taxotere (docetaxel)
- Abraxane (albumin-bound or nab-paclitaxel)
- Vinca Alkaloids – stop cells from dividing
- Alocrest (vinorelbine)
- Navelbine (vinorelbine)
- Marqibo (vincristine)
- Vincasar (vincristine)
How Much Hair Can You Expect to Lose?
Chemotherapy and hair loss often go hand-in-hand, but that’s not always the case. If you’re wondering if you’ll lose your hair, it all depends. Some factors that influence the extent to which your hair may become thinner or start falling out include:
- Type and dose of chemotherapy medicines
- Existing medical conditions (e.g., thyroid disease, low iron)
- Nutritional status
- Stress levels
Cancer treatments may involve a single type of chemotherapy drugs or a combination of more than one type. This can have a bearing on how much hair loss occurs. For example, some chemotherapy is given in small dose on a weekly basis whereas stronger doses might be given every month. If you’re on a smaller dose, you may see very little hair loss at all. The stronger the dose, the more hair you’re likely to lose. Add in any of the other risk factors, and you may be more prone to full hair loss.
How to Manage Chemotherapy Hair Loss
Hair loss is usually a temporary side effect of chemotherapy that happens a few weeks following treatments. You could experience total hair loss within one to two months. Once treatments have stopped, your hair will usually start growing back within one to three months and take up to twelve months for full growth.
Talk to a Women’s Hair Loss Specialist Near You
Every woman’s situation is unique and different, which is why Transitions member hair replacement centers offer private, no-obligation consultations to help you select the best option for your particular needs and lifestyle.
Some women who experience their hair falling out as a result of cancer treatments are perfectly fine wearing a turban or scarf. But today’s modern wigs, especially made for women with a sensitive scalp and little or no hair are created using modern state-of-the-art technology and are virtually indistinguishable from your own natural growing hair. We encourage you to consider scheduling a private, one-on-one consultation with a Transitions member hair loss center specialist to explore your options and get all your questions and concerns answered fully and completely.
Solutions for Hair Loss & Thinning Hair
Whether you live in Columbus, Ohio, Long Island or New York City, or elsewhere, if you are experiencing the devastating effects of hair loss and would like to learn more about non-surg