Chemotherapy vs. Radiation - How they Differ Regarding Hair Loss
Of all the words in the English language, there are few that evoke more fear than the word "cancer."
Some cancer treatments like chemotherapy can have side effects like hair loss which could be something you may be experiencing if you are someone suffering from breast cancer. There are basically two types of therapies that are the most common, radiation and chemotherapy.
Both of these treatments cause a person to lose their hair but in different ways. If you have to undergo one or both of these treatments you should be aware of the effect they have in relation to hair loss so you can be better prepared.
Chemotherapy & Hair Loss
What chemotherapy does is use powerful drugs to destroy cancer cells by damaging them so they can’t reproduce. Cancer cells divide rapidly, so it is those cell types that the chemotherapy targets. The problem is your hair follicles also contain cells that rapidly grow which is why chemotherapy treatments invariably damage them along with the cancer cells.
Chemotherapy drugs circulate through your entire body, and the hair you have everywhere can be affected. Hair loss is usually noticed around two to four weeks after you begin chemotherapy treatments and it will continue until your last dose. The good news is this type of hair loss is usually temporary. Weeks after your treatments end your new hair should begin to grow and by two months you may have over one inch of new hair. The hair you get after treatment may be slightly different in color or texture. Hair that grows faster will return first followed by other hair like eyebrows and lashes.
Radiation Therapy & Hair Loss
Radiation therapy targets the cancer cell’s DNA. It damages it so much that the cell is unable to function any longer. Unlike chemotherapy, it doesn’t target specific cell types and it will damage normal cells too. It is for this reason that radiation is given to specific areas and the hair loss you may experience would be in those areas.
If you have breast cancer and it hasn’t spread, then radiation therapy can be applied to just that area and hair loss will be more than likely limited to just the immediate area where radiation therapy was applied. If your cancer has spread, then the hair loss you can get from radiation therapy will be more extensive as the treatment area will be larger.
After radiation treatment begins, hair loss will also begin, typically within two to three weeks. The regrowth process will occur in about three to six months after the treatment is complete.
Coping With Medically Related Hair Loss
While hair loss that is cancer-related is usually temporary, watching something go that has been a big part of your identity is often difficult. Finding a support group where you can connect with others in the same situation and going through the same experiences can often help. You can treat yourself to a shopping trip and buy something you like.
Even better, take this opportunity to enjoy playing with different hairstyles and colors by trying different human hair wigs. You never know but you may find a new color or style that you want to continue to wear even after your hair grows back after treatments.
Keeping Your Hair Loss Private
In order to keep your medical treatments private, it is advisable to visit a professional hair restoration clinic and make arrangements for a wig or hair prosthesis to replace your own hair which will fall out during treatment. By visiting early, you can provide an accurate sample of your own hair so that your wig or hair prosthesis can be matched perfectly, so only the people with whom you wish to share your medical journey with will know about it and co-workers, neighbors, and others will have no idea what you are going through unless you choose to share it with them.
At Hair Restoration Institute of Minnesota, we create custom hair loss solutions for everyone who walks through our doors. Our hand-crafted wigs, hair replacement systems and hair loss treatment programs are one-of-a-kind and designed with you, and only you, in mind. Schedule a free no-obligation consultation today (612) 588-4247. We'll show you just how easy it is to say goodbye to hair loss once and for all.