While suffering from an illness, many people experience hair loss. Sometimes the hair loss occurs as a result of the stress and anxiety accompanying the illness. However, at other times, it can occur as a result of the illness itself. For example, many autoimmune disorders target the cells in the hair follicles on the different parts of the body, including the scalp, which can result in hair loss. Another reason which causes hair loss is the treatment of the illness. The medications that you’re prescribed can cause hair loss or thinning, or, as in the case of cancer treatment, chemotherapy hair loss can occur.
Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment where medications are injected through a needle into the bloodstream of the patient (tablets, drips and capsules are also used) that target rapidly dividing cells to kill them. Chemotherapy drugs cannot differentiate between the healthy cells and cancer cells, which is why it also ends up killing both cancer cells and the healthy cells. However, the treatment is necessary in some cases depending on different factors, such as if cancer has spread, what type of cancer it is, and how big it is.
Unfortunately, one of the side effects of chemotherapy is hair loss. The person undergoing chemotherapy ends up losing all of the hair on their body. This kind of hair loss is temporary and reversible. Hair growth can start after the treatment is over. We understand how upsetting chemotherapy hair loss can be, but it is a part of the treatment.
What is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy makes use of drugs that target those cells in the body that are dividing and growing quickly. Cancer treatments are recommended if cancer has spread to the whole body of the person. Removing cancerous mass through surgery or radiation limits the target area. However, one accompanying side effect of chemo is that since it cannot differentiate between normal, healthy cells and cancerous cells, it can also cause damage to them. This can affect the hair, nails, bone marrow and intestines of the patient.
There are different modes of action of chemotherapy drugs. In any case, they damage the genes present in the nucleus of the cells. The drug can kill the cancerous cells as they’re about to divide to make new cells or when copies of genes are being made for the division of the cells.
How Does It Work?
The treatment usually takes place in combination with either surgery, radiotherapy or biological therapy. Chemo can take place before and after surgery/radiotherapy. If done before, it can help reduce the size of the tumour, and if it takes place after the surgery/radiotherapy, it can help kill the remaining cancerous cells. For instance, breast cancer patients usually have chemotherapy after surgical removal of cancer to lower the risk of cancer coming back.
Patient’s Experience With Chemotherapy
The side effects of the treatment include feeling weak, ill, and tired. It is recommended that on the day of the therapy, the patient rests completely and also the days after so that they can gain some of their strength. Other than hair thinning and hair loss on eyebrows and eyelashes, chemotherapy medications can also cause diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting as a side effect. Therefore, it is better if you ask someone to take care of you during the process. The cancer treatment can vary depending on the patient, the type of cancer they have, and how far it’s progressed. Also, each drug causes a different side effect.
What is the Duration of Chemotherapy Treatment?
The plan of chemo is devised depending on many factors, such as the size of the tumour, the type of cancer, the stage of cancer, age, and the body’s response to treatment, etc. The chemotherapy treatment proceeds in cycles, where there’s a period of rest following treatment.
Depending on the patient’s response to the treatment, the plan can change. Since the complications of the treatment are too many, it is not administered on a daily basis. That is why it takes place in cycles. During the breaks, the body gets time to repair the damaged cells.
You might get chemotherapy treatment for a week, which can be followed by a rest period of three weeks. During the whole course of treatment, there can be many cycles included in your treatment plan. In some cases, the rest period in a cycle is not that long, so the treatment is given more frequently to fight aggressively against cancer. However, the patient might experience a lot of difficulties as a result.
Why Hair Loss From Chemotherapy Occurs?
One of the most feared side effects after cancer diagnosis for both men and women is hair loss. Chemotherapy causes hair loss all over the body, including the scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes, and even pubic hair. Since the hair is constantly growing due to the rapid division of the cells, it is targeted by chemotherapy drugs. As the treatment continues, you will continue to lose your hair for even a few weeks after the treatment is over.
How much chemotherapy is likely to cause hair loss depends on the kind of treatment you’re getting. Some people experience thinning as their hair falls, while others may lose them completely. Chemotherapy hair loss may make you feel very distressed. Many patients wear a wig during the treatment to hide their hair loss. Fortunately, you will not experience permanent hair loss. The side effects of the treatment will go away once you stop getting chemo.
Does Chemotherapy Always Cause Hair Loss?
People with cancer usually wonder if chemotherapy always causes hair loss. The answer to that is no. Chemotherapy uses a combination of different medications that intend to kill the cancer cells in the body.
The type of drugs administered in the body of the patient depends on the type of cancer they have. It then depends on that whether they will lose their hair or not. Some drugs do not make the patient lose their hair or make them barely lose it. However, you might notice that the hair becomes thin and dull as a result of the treatment.
Is There A Way To Prevent Hair Loss From Chemotherapy?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy. The hair cells are destroyed by the drugs, which don’t allow for hair growth to take place. Moreover, there are no hair care products available that can help prevent chemotherapy hair loss. Even taking hair loss supplements cannot help stop chemotherapy hair loss.
When Do You Start Losing Your Hair During Chemo?
You will start noticing hair loss alopecia after 1-3 weeks of the cancer treatment. Your hair will start to fall from your head excessively after 1-2 months. Keep in mind that the effects of these medications do not immediately leave the body. That is why your hair and scalp can be affected for a few weeks after the treatment. So, you cannot expect hair growth to start taking place immediately after you’re done with chemotherapy.
Hair Growth After Chemotherapy
After the chemotherapy, you’ll start noticing the first signs of hair growth after a month. The thickness of your hair will start increasing in the following weeks. You’ll notice a growth of few inches on your scalp after 3-6 months. After 12 months, your hair will grow back more than 4-6 inches.
Can You Have Hair Transplant and PRP After Chemotherapy?
It is possible to have a hair transplant after you have had chemo. Your general condition must be stable after the chemotherapy for the surgery to take place. Also, you must be ready to have surgery. If your cancer hasn’t relapsed in a while and your tests are negative, you can have a hair transplant without any problems. It’s also advised that you talk with your oncologists if you decide to have a hair transplant.
There are some unpredictable risks associated with hair transplants after chemo. Hair transplant has a success rate of 90% on normal patients. However, we can’t guarantee a success rate on patients with cancer history. The chemotherapeutic drugs can affect the skin, hormones, etc., of the patient. It is important that you know about these risks and discuss them with the surgeon before a hair transplant.
As far as PRP is concerned, you can have this treatment after chemotherapy. It can help promote the growth of your newly growing hair.
Summing It Up
Dealing with chemotherapy is a part of cancer care treatment. In most cases, hair grows back after cancer therapy is completed. You can look into different hair care treatments afterward but make sure to do so after consulting a doctor.
Your health is most important in cancer care, so you should take care of yourself. Your hair will start growing back on its own. However, sometimes hair may not grow back to its original strength, so you can consider hair transplant and PRP. To book your treatment, you can contact our friendly staff. We’ll guide you about everything you need to know.