Chemotherapy and Hair Loss
Not so with hair loss associated with cancer treatments such as chemo- and radiotherapy (though less apparent other than around the treated area).
One of the most commonly asked questions attendant with such therapies is “Will I lose my hair”. For chemotherapy the answer is a very likely Yes because the drugs used are intended to kill cancer cells but will also, as well as attacking cancer cells, impact the functioning of normal body cells such as hair follicles.
Happily, in nearly all cases the body hair grows back upon completion of treatment – and may even return thicker and stronger.
Besides the immediate trauma of diagnosis and treatment there are the social ramifications attendant with the resultant hair loss. The response varies between sufferers from pragmatic acceptance to acute psychological stress, especially for women, for whom hair loss or baldness is not so easily accepted as a social norm or self elected ‘hair’ style.
For those not wishing to present themselves to society with thinning hair or baldness there are immediate options such as wearing caps or donning scarves and other ladies head apparel but not all solutions are ‘fashionable’ or meet with the wearer’s personal sense of style, how they like to see themselves.
Hair Systems or ‘Wigs’ – A Paradigm Shift
Unfortunately, even in today’s liberal and eclectic society there remains a stigma attached to wearing a ‘wig’, and it may still take something of a paradigm shift to accept one’s first hair unit. As it did with the wife of the author of this article who, for the purposes of discretion, will be known as Jessica.
Jessica was eventually diagnosed with bladder and pelvic girdle bone cancer just before Christmas 2013. The prognosis was neutral, neither bleak nor optimistic but treatment dictated surgery to remove the bladder tumor and both chemotherapy and radiotherapy at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, as well as infusions to strengthen the pelvic bone at Bedford Primrose Unit. Whilst discussing the implications of treatment the topic of hair loss came to the fore.
Jessica had luxuriant almost black hair that as the years advanced she dyed to maintain. It was her pride and joy, and the knowledge she would likely lose much of it brought her to her knees. Whilst the news – the cancer, the treatment and the horror – was sinking in, the emotional impact of her hair loss was too much to bear. Jessica was numb and entirely rejected the ‘wig’ solution.
The weeks passed and she entered her third cycle of chemotherapy, some two months later. Her hair loss was becoming increasingly apparent as she brushed it during her morning ablutions, her once glorious head of hair becoming thinner and thinner. To make matter worse, her treatment denied use of colourant because of the constituent chemicals, so the greys were showing through and there was no way to treat them.