Cancer and Hair Loss – What Are Your Options?
Cancer and Hair Loss – What Are Your Options?
Every day, we receive phone calls from people who are frantic about their hair loss. It messes with your self-esteem when you lose your hair, especially due to circumstances beyond your control. Many men shave their heads because they don’t like their hair or the constant upkeep, but it’s a different ballgame when you don’t have a choice.
The most common reasons for male hair loss include stress, medications, genetics, mental or psychological issues, and alopecia. Regardless, it can affect your self-esteem, which is why we try to help with transplantation surgery. Sadly, one common hair loss issue stems from cancer, and there’s often little we can do in these situations.
Cancer is a killer of the vital cells in your body, and the radical treatments involved in keeping this deadly malignancy from spreading are radiation and chemotherapy. Sadly, both methods can cause hair loss. The good news is that, in most cases, it will regrow. You may notice that it’s not the same as before, as we often hear complaints about texture and other subtle differences with new growth.
What isn’t commonly talked about much is that some people never get their hair back after these radical treatments. Additionally, some folks will grow fuzz, and it’s nothing that covers their head like before. Sadly, your choices for this type of loss are limited. Hair transplantation won’t work because there’s nothing to transplant.
So, it would help if you looked at other options. Understanding what’s happening inside the body and to the hair follicle can help you put things into perspective.
Chemotherapy is the gold standard first line of defense against cancer, but while it kills the malignant cells in your body, it also attacks healthy cells. Did you know that during World War II, experts realized the power behind these drugs? Soldiers exposed to mustard gas had changes that occurred in their molecular structure as well as their bone marrow.
Further investigation led them to find protective elements of mustard gas, later used to help folks with lymphoma. The first patient was cured of cancer with chemotherapy in 1956, but the side effects are not for the faint of heart. Damaging the DNA cells did help these people, but it caused things like hair loss, burns on their mouths and head, and extreme sickness.
Though things have progressed over the decades, the side effects are still potent. You’re very likely to lose your hair if you take chemo. Sadly, even your hair’s rooting system is affected.
While the most apparent hair loss is on your head, your eyebrows, pubic, and armpit hairs can also fall out. Medicine has progressed dramatically over time, and some drugs will cause only thinning. However, the drug’s potency dictates the side effects, and complete baldness is often a chief complaint.
After you’ve taken chemo, you can expect to go without hair for up to six months from the date of your last treatment. Sadly, what comes back might be an entirely different color or texture. It’s not uncommon for folks to have straight hair before chemo, but once their hair regrows, they have curly locks.
Since most of these distressing side effects are short-term, it’s best to wait six months to see if there’s any regrowth. You can spend a lot of money on something that’s only temporary, which is why wigs are a good choice in these situations.
Radiation differs from chemo because it doesn’t affect the entire body. Today’s radiation treatments are localized. They can target areas of concern, and this is the location that will likely lose hair. If you have brain cancer, the chances of you losing your hair with radiation are great.
Like chemo, radiation destroys both good and bad cells. Conversely, you likely wouldn’t lose your whole head of hair if you had it localized to the front. It depends on the severity of the cancer and the radiation you’re given. It’s common to have bald patches in places where the radiation was used, so these are easier to cover when your hair is longer.
What Happens if Your Hair Doesn’t Grow Back?
You have options if your hair doesn’t come back or is fuzzy and short after chemo or radiation. The first line of defense is to use a wig. Wigs are inexpensive and a quick fix, but they don’t work for everyone. You must understand that hair transplant surgery can’t use a donor, as you become the donor for the procedure.
We harvest hair from other spots to replace the area of loss. These surgeries don’t work if you have no hair to relocate. If your hair grows back in most places but there’s some balding, we can help in these situations.
Each customer and case are different, so we must examine your hair loss, get the whole story, and determine the best course of action. Thankfully, AZ Hair Restoration has a medical doctor on staff. Dr. Arthur Zacco can review your medical history and see if there’s anything we can do to help. Call today for a consultation.