What To Do About Hair Loss (Alopecia)
What to do about hair loss during radiation therapy.
Letís listen in on a support group as the groupís leader, Janet, opens the discussion by talking with members about coping with hair loss, also called alopecia.
Okayóletís get started.
First, I want to make sure you all know that people tend to lose hair only in the area where they get radiation therapy. Tonight, weíre going to talk about different ways to prepare for hair loss and what can make this a little easier. Who would like to start?
I will. [sigh] I hate that my hair is already thinning. Iím getting radiation therapy to my head, and I wake up to a new handful of hair on my pillow each morning. Iím not a vain person, but I love my hair.
Kim, hair loss can be very hard. Iím so sorry. Most people find that their hair starts to fall out in the area where they are getting radiation therapy, about 2 to 3 weeks after their first radiation therapy session.
That makes senseóI started my first treatment 3 weeks ago.
It helped me that I started out half bald to begin with. But I know what you are saying, Kim. I would wake up to hair on my pillow each morning. I decided to shave my hair off before it fell out on its own from treatment. I used a good electric razorólearned the hard way when the plastic one cut my scalp.
Rodneyóthe bald look is great for you. Iím just not ready to shave it all off right now.
Rodney, thanks for letting us know what worked well for you. Who else would like to share?
Wellófirst I cut my hair short so the shock factor was less. And I got a wig before all my hair fell out. The first one I got matched my natural hair color. That one was free. Then I thought, hey, Iíve always wanted to be a redheadóso I bought a red wig.
The first one was free?
Yes. The nurse gave me the number of a place that supplies wigs at no charge. But wigs can be hot, especially in the summer. Thatís why you see me in this colorful scarf wrapped around my head like a turban. Personally, I think a turban is the way to go!
I see a lot of women at the hospital wearing bandannas. Some men too.
Iíve seen lots of people at the clinic in baseball caps!
These are great suggestions. Thanks, guys. But I still need to know one thingóJanet, will my hair grow back?
Your hair may grow back in 3 to 6 months after your treatment is over. It really depends on the amount of radiation you get. People who get very high doses may not see their hair return. In the meantime, wash your hair gently with a mild shampoo and pat it dry. Iíd also avoid using a hair dryer.
Okay, Janet, thanks. And thanks, everyone, for sharing your ideas. Looks like Iím going scarf shopping!
Want some company?
Sure, that would be great. Do you think we could go tomorrow afternoon?
Hair loss can be difficult for both men and women. Itís important to remember that people tend to lose their hair only in the area where they get radiation. Most often, hair grows back 3 to 6 months after you complete treatment.
If youíd like to wear a wig, talk with a nurse or a social worker where you receive treatment. In some cases, your wig may be free or covered by your health insurance.
And as some group members shared, you can always wear a scarf, bandanna, cap, or nothing at all on your head. Choose whatever works and feels best for you.