While we may not yet have the answer to absolute hair loss prevention, we’re most definitely close. One of the most commonly observed side effects of chemotherapy is a sudden and acute loss of hair. Hair loss due to chemotherapy does more than just affect the patient’s appearance. It serves as a grim reminder of how the patient’s life has changed.
Most patients experience severe hair fall about two to four weeks after the treatment begins. In some cases, the hair could fall out in clumps very quickly. In others, it could be a more gradual loss, and the hair continues to fall until a few weeks after the treatment ends. Whether you will go completely bald or experience only hair thinning depends on how your body reacts to the treatment.
Is Hair Loss Prevention during Chemotherapy Even Possible?
Simply put, yes. There are certain measures that the chemo patient can opt for, so as to drastically reduce the amount of hair loss in the process. This isn’t to say that hair loss during chemotherapy won’t happen at all; cytostatic drugs that aim to destroy cancer cells also destroy the healthy cells present in hair follicles that make your hair grow. However, there are two ways one can majorly prevent that from happening, if not entirely.
Take note of the following options:
#1: Scalp Hypothermia
Scalp hypothermia is a process that makes use of ‘cooling caps’ during the chemotherapy session to slow down the blood flow to the scalp. The cap is worn by the patient for a period of time before, during and after each session to prevent major hair loss. These cooling caps use a two-piece cooling system that is controlled by a computer. While one cap circulates a cooled liquid during each treatment, the second cap covers the first to hold it in place, and keep the cold from escaping.
The cooling constricts blood vessels in the scalp, a simple process that reduces the amount of chemo that reaches the cells of hair follicles. This, in turn, significantly reduces the activity of the hair follicles too, which makes them less attractive to chemo, thereby, preventing loss of hair.
#2: Gentle hair care during chemotherapy
Several chemotherapy patients have recorded significant hair loss prevention results by adopting a gentle hair care routine. Less frequent washing using a gentle, mild shampoo, limited sun exposure, no colour or perm treatments, and limited usage of hard brushes and styling tools has helped them reduce the risks of losing a significant amount of hair.
Other measures the women took were showering at room-temperature water, limited usage of clips, hats and other hair restraints, and sleeping on a silk pillowcase. These actions, combined with cooling caps, is currently the best answer to hair loss prevention during chemotherapy.
While losing your hair during chemotherapy can be a challenging and trying experience, science is quickly advancing, and we can hope for stronger, more effective solutions in the future.