Hair Loss, Thinning and Cancer Treatment

Hair loss can be caused by chemotherapy treatment, chronic conditions such as alopecia or other illness or disease.

If you've been diagnosed with cancer, your doctor may recommend chemotherapy as part of your treatment. It is one of the most common treatments for cancer.

As you approach the start of treatment you may wonder, am I going to lose my hair, why does it fall out, and more importantly, will it grow back? Last answer first, yes, hair loss from chemo treatment is almost always temporary! Everyone is different but you should start to see hair growth 3 – 6 months after your last treatment.

Now, back to understanding why your may fall out with chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy (chemo) is a systemic cancer treatment that uses one or a mixture of powerful anti-cancer drugs to destroy quickly dividing cancer cells. The type, dosage and frequency of drug treatment is determined by the patient’s oncology team and is unique to each person.

Each chemo drug has different side effects including possible hair loss, thinning or dulling. Some anti-cancer drugs cause hair loss only on the head, others cause complete hair loss over the entire body and still others cause minimal loss, thinning or hair dulling. For more information on specific chemo drugs and hair loss click here.

Chemo is given in various forms such as pills, shots and intravenously. The medication travels via the bloodstream throughout the body destroying any cancer cells that may have travelled away from the primary tumor site.

Along the way, the anti-cancer drugs not only destroy cancer cells they also destroy or weaken healthy cells including hair cells that make hair grow.

Some patients experience hair loss 2 to 3 weeks after start of chemo treatment. Some experience a gradual hair thinning while others experience clumps falling out. This can be an emotional time and you may need lots of support from family and friends. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our Support Services Manager if you want to talk or surround yourself with others who have experienced it directly and understand.

Once your physician determines your treatment regime ask lots of questions including questions about treatment side effects and hair loss. If you anticipate losing some or all of your hair, you may wish to make an appointment with the wig stylist at To Life! before treatment starts so she can meet you and more closely match your hair style and look with an appropriate wig and/or other headwear. An in person fitting offers you the opportunity to see a variety of wig options, styles and colors including human hair and synthetic wigs, toppers, scarves and hats and with our fitter's assistance you'll find the right one and fit for you!

Here are additional resources about breast cancer, chemotherapy, hair loss and side effects:

Hair Loss and Alopecia

Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune disease that can cause hair to fall out in patches on a person’s head. People of all ages, genders and ethnicities can be diagnosed with this disease. There are other types of alopecia that cause complete hair loss over the entire body or hair thinning. To Life! is able to meet your hair loss needs too. Please call to make an appointment with our stylist today.

More resources on alopecia and hair loss: