57TAB FOUR | TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF patient guide
Hair loss, also known as alopecia, is a common side effect from cancer treatments. Most people think that chemotherapy
will cause them to lose their hair, but that is not true. Not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss. Your doctor or nurse will
tell you if you are taking medications that will cause hair loss. Hair loss may not happen right away. It may begin several
weeks after your ﬁrst treatment or after a few treatments. It can occur on all parts of the body, not just the head. When
hair loss does occur, the hair may become thinner, fall out in clumps or fall out completely.
Hair grows back after the treatments are over. Sometimes hair will even start to grow back before you ﬁnish your
treatments. Also, hair may grow back a different color or texture than the previous hair. Many times people will say that
their hair and head becomes sensitive before losing hair.
The following are tips for helping care for your hair and head during treatment.
• Use a mild shampoo.
• Do not wash your hair every day. Instead, try every second or third day.
• Use a soft hair brush.
• Use low heat when drying your hair.
• Do not curl or use rollers or harsh styling products on your hair.
• Avoid dying, perming or relaxing your hair during treatment and for at least several months following hair re-growth.
Anger, depression and sadness are common feelings when you have lost your hair or when it has become very thin. It is
okay to feel these things, but remember that it is only a temporary side effect and the hair will grow back after you ﬁnish
treatments. Talking with someone about your feelings can help.
Tips for coping with thin hair or hair loss:
Wigs: There are many places that can help you choose a wig style and color that is right for you. Some of the local wig
shops are owned by people who have either had cancer or have had a family member be diagnosed with the disease.
Hats or scarves: Again, many of the wig shops also sell hats and scarves. In addition, the American Cancer Society has
a catalog called “TLC” which sells all varieties of hats, turbans and scarves. Please check with your nurse or call 1-800-
850-9445 to get a free catalog. You can also visit the website at www.tlccatalog.org
Have your hair cut short. A shorter style will make your hair look thicker and fuller. It also will make your hair easier to
Use sunscreen, sun block or a hat to protect your scalp when you are outside.
If having your hair fall out a little at a time is too emotional for you, consider just shaving your head. That way you do not
have to deal with hair being everywhere and all over everything. Consider having a “party” to shave your head.
The American Cancer Society is a great resource for information and support. They also have a small supply of turbans
and wigs (limited variety) that you can get for free. Call your local ACS for more information or log onto their Web site at