“Even the doctor who gives me radiotherapy commented that it was great I didn’t lose my hair on the treatment. I said, ‘I did, this is a wig!”
Chemotherapy is a word to describe different types of medication to treat cancer. Its purpose is to destroy cancer cells. Some of these drugs cause hair loss, others do not. Your oncology team will advise you if the drugs you are on will cause hair loss, and if so, when the hair is likely to fall out. This usually occurs 2- 3 weeks after the commencement of treatment.
The hair loss is temporary and your hair will begin to grow about 3-4 weeks after the last treatment. Hair grows at a rate of half an inch a month.
Sometimes hair will thin out over the course of the treatment. It is recommended not to colour or perm your hair and to keep hair dryers on a medium heat during treatment. The result is that your hair can be limp, fine and grey or showing roots.
Many people in this situation find great relief from wearing a wig. You don’t have to have total hair loss to wear a wig.
Radiotherapy only causes hair loss when treatment is directed at the head. If you are receiving treatment to a particular part of your head, you will only lose hair in that area. Depending on where the hair loss occurs, you may be able to use your own hair and scarves to camoflage the hair loss, or you may consider getting a wig if the hair loss is more extensive.
With radiotherapy, the hair usually starts to fall out after two to three weeks. After radiotherapy, hair usually starts to grow within two to three months of finishing your treatment. Hair grows at a rate of half an inch a month.
Patches of hair that do not regrow fully (ie surgery scar on head) can be camoflaged very successfully with product and custom-made partial hair pieces .
I’ve been told I’m going to lose my hair – when should I look for a wig?
Anne: Itʼs best to come before you start your treatment so you can match a wig to your natural hair colour and texture. A photo is a great way to help us match your previous style if your hair has started to thin.
Can a wig be fitted in my home?
Anne: Yes, home/hospital visits along with our new online consultation and fitting services are available if you can’t come to us (see p19).
When can I expect my hair to start to fall out?
Anne: Hair loss usually occurs two to three weeks after the first treatment. The loss is always gradual – it never falls out all at once. You may start to notice hair on your pillow and on your hairbrush etc. It is as if the hair has become loose in the scalp and any movement such as washing or brushing causes it to fall.
What about my eyelashes and eyebrows?
Anne: They may fall out. There are clever ways to camouflage this and we will be happy to advise you during your consultation or at our ‘positive appearance workshops’.
Is there anything I can do to prevent hair loss?
Anne: Your treatment is causing the hair loss. If your hair is long the weight will cause it to fall out quicker. We suggest cutting long hair at the first signs of hairloss. Some people cut their hair into the style of their chosen wig.
What should I do when I begin to lose my hair?
Anne: Some people cut their hair before it starts to fall to give them a sense of control over the situation, but most wait until their hair starts falling and then have it cut. We are happy to do this for you in our private fitting rooms. Others let all their hair fall out naturally. Itʼs a personal choice and either way we can offer help and advice.
Is there anything I can do to make my hair grow back faster?
Anne: Zinc and Magnesium promote strong healthy nails and hair. Conditioning your hair and scalp before, during and after treatment creates the optimum conditions for healthy new hair – ask about our products! Wearing a hairpiece does not damage the scalp or inhibit the hair from growing.
When can I colour or perm my hair again?
Anne: It is recommended not to perm or colour your hair with permanent hair colour for about six months after treatment. However a colour or mousse that does not contain ammonia or peroxide can be used. We use organic and chemical free colours, some of which can be used during and immediately after treatment.
We are happy to advice you on this and do it for you in our private consultation rooms if you like.
When hair starts to re-grow, it can be a different colour. If this colour is showing beneath the wig as your locks grow down, coloured mousse or water rinse can be a great camouflage and will not damage your hair.