Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment method that uses drugs to destroy cancerous cells. A cancer cell grows and divides rapidly. Chemotherapy works by slowing their growth and division. Many cancer victims opt for chemotherapy without having full knowledge of what it entails. This article explores what they should expect with hair loss and how hair falls out due to chemotherapy.
why does chemotherapy cause hair loss
Although chemo is meant to destroy the cancerous cells, research shows that it also affects rapidly dividing healthy cells. Under the human skin, there are tiny blood vessels known as the hair follicles that make the hair. This is an example of one of the healthy rapidly dividing cells that are innocently’ destroyed.
When a person is not under any cancer treatment, the hair follicles divide after every twenty three to seventy two hours. When a person is under chemo, it works against the cancer cells as well as the healthy hair cells. This explains why, few weeks into the treatment, the patients start losing their hair.
What people considering chemo can expect with hair loss
It is important for people considering chemotherapy to know that, some chemotherapy drugs may not just cause hair loss on their head only. Other drugs also cause loss of pubic hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, hair on arms, legs and underarms. The extent, to which the hair loss occurs, however, depends on the drugs administered and the duration.
The loss of hair may be dramatic or gradual. One may find handfuls on the pillow or tub drain or clumps in the hairbrushes. Understandably, it maybe a distressing period for a person, but it should not worry the patient. The patients need a lot of support from their relatives and close friends at this time.
There are various chemotherapy drugs and each produces different reaction. Some are scheduled every three or four weeks. These are likely to cause more hair loss. The drugs given in small doses and weekly tend to produce less hair loss. The doctor decides on the type of chemotherapy drug to administer depending on a number of factors. For instance, the type of cancer one has. Some drugs are meant for just one type of cancer while others are used to treat a number of types.
Preventing hair loss during chemo treatment
There have been several attempts to reduce hair loss using ice caps and tight bands. They reduce loss of hair by reduction of blood flow to the scalp. This limits exposure of chemotherapy to the hair follicles. This technique, however, limits effectiveness of the drug in that area.
Managing hair loss due to chemotherapy
Since hair loss is expected, cut your hair short in advance. Losing short hair is less distressing than long hair. Alternatively, shave your hair as soon as it stars falling out. One may also purchase a wig. If interested, get a special wig prescription from your doctor and get one before hair starts falling out.