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Imagine looking in the mirror and not recognizing the person staring back at you. Many people who go through cancer treatment worry about looking and feeling good about themselves since chemotherapy can have unwelcomed side effects like hair loss, or alopecia.
Alopecia is a result of chemotherapy drugs attacking fast-growing cells. Because hair follicles grow rapidly, systemic chemo drugs that combat the disease often attack hair cells at the same time.
While hair loss is a side effect of some cancer treatments, it doesn’t happen to everyone. Even when two people are taking the same drug, each person may experience different side effects. Your oncologist can answer questions about which side effects are more common with your treatment.
If hair loss is going to happen, it most often starts within two weeks of treatment and gets worse 1-2 months after starting therapy. Most often, hair comes off in clumps during shampoo or brushing. Other times, clumps of hair may come off while you are sleeping and can be found on your pillow in the morning. Hair often starts to grow back before treatment ends.
Losing your hair during cancer treatment is a common, but often traumatic, side effect of cancer treatment. For people with cancer, it’s not just hair they are losing, but part of their identity and confidence.
There are ways to manage hair loss before, during and after cancer treatment so you can cope during treatment:
It may take a while to adjust to not having hair. Also, lost hair is one of the most visible signs of cancer treatment so others around you may notice. To ease your fears before going out, consider:
How do you keep your spirits up? Tell us in the below comments.
Learn makeup techniques, get skin and nail care advice, and learn about hair loss options, such as wigs, hats, scarves and other accessories, at the American Cancer Society’s Look Good Feel Better workshop.
Get more information or find a cancer-related support group.
Essential beauty tips for the cancer fighter.
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