Your doctors may recommend chemo or radiotherapy as it is effective in killing cancer cells. The drugs used in this method of treatment are so powerful that as well as getting rid of the cancer, they also attack all types of quickly-forming cells in the body.
Hair follicles are unfortunately the kind of cells that are attacked. This causes unwanted treatment side effects such as hair loss and dry skin on the scalp.
For many people, hair loss can be extremely daunting as it visually represents the presence of cancer in the body. In most cases it is unavoidable, which is why talking to your cancer care team about any concerns will allow you to prepare for the hair loss and help you cope with this difficult side effect.
Your doctors will tell you whether your particular type of treatment is likely to cause hair loss. This will allow you to plan ahead for wigs, coverings and practice caring for your skin in a different way.
Deborah Alfa, founder of Me Again and a scalp-care specialist, says that managing expectations is very important in the early stages of treatment:
“I have a lot of ladies coming to me and asking advice about how to look after your hair during treatment.
The first question they often ask is ‘When is my hair going to fall out?’
There’s no easy answer, as it depends on what treatment you are undergoing and the unique circumstances of each person and their hair type.
In general, your hair takes an average of six weeks to grow from the hair bulb to follicle and then a little longer before you are able to see it.
Depending on what stage your hair growth is at, you may see hair noticeably falling out within three to six weeks after beginning treatment.”
Chemotherapy often results in dry and irritated skin, especially on the scalp. To relieve these uncomfortable side effects, patients can take steps to minimize dry skin problems beginning about a week before treatment begins.
“Maintaining a good clean healthy scalp during treatment will help aid your new hair grow in a good environment encouraging thicker healthier hair to grow back.
Using a gentle paraben and sulphate free shampoo will be best, as this will prevent sensitivities.
You should also think of conditioning the scalp to keep it supple and moisturized preventing dry, itchy and a sometimes-sore scalp environment.
You can do this by using a small amount of pure organic coconut oil after cleansing (for more information please read my blog on baby shampoo and parabens and sulphates).
Massaging your scalp regularly will help keep it supple and encourage blood flow to the new hair growing. Eating a healthy well-balanced diet or taking extra hair and nail vitamins will give an added boost to aid in strong healthy hair growing.
Where possible allow your scalp to breathe take your wig/turban/scarf off as much as possible as the scalp can get hot and sweaty and in turn cause irritations and dry the scalp.”
Misconceptions can be harmful when it comes to cancer care, so make sure you check any advice with your medical team before you decide the best route for you.
Deborah told us her top myth-busting scalp care tips:
“One thing I do tell people is that washing your hair less regularly will not slow down the process. You will notice it more as it’s being washed and brushed but washing your hair will have little effect on the speed of hair loss.
Some people believe that cutting the hair short or shaving the hair will help stop it from falling out.
This is not the case. If your hair is going to fall out it will fall out.
But we advise that by cutting the hair shorter in stages can be less traumatic and will allow you to get used to seeing yourself with shorter hair and what it will look like when it grows back.
It will also prevent the hair from matting and less tension on the scalp. You can then shave the hair if and when you are ready.
This is your choice and everyone’s preference is different so only you can decide what is best for you.”
Me Again CIC works with women who have had a cancer diagnosis to help them cope with the social and emotional challenges and feel good about themselves again.
We fund beauty treatments, complementary therapies and private, bespoke wig services and much more, to help you through this difficult time- from the point of diagnosis, throughout your treatment, in your recovery period and beyond
Take advantage of our free treatments, escape the medical environment and be pampered in our luxurious Beauty Hub in the lovely Courtyard at Brimstage.
Our friendly team will welcome you, share their expertise and advice and will make you feel relaxed and comfortable whilst in our care.
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