What Causes Hair Loss During Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy targets rapidly growing cells, like cancer cells. Unfortunately, the cells in your hair follicles that produce the hair are also fast growing. When the chemotherapy makes the cells in the follicles too sick to produce new hair, the existing hair loses its support and falls out. This is most prominent on the scalp, especially the top and “crown” areas. Typically, the cells recover when the chemotherapy is finished, but this is not always the case. Depending on the type of chemotherapy, between 4-10% of patients will not recover all of their hair. About 65% of patients will have a different texture and/or color when their hair returns. Graying of the hair is common. Some Chemotherapy can also affect eyebrows, eyelashes and body hair. Areas other than the scalp tend to be less affected and recover quicker.
Can You Prevent Hair Loss During Chemotherapy?
Numerous different techniques have been attempted to prevent hair loss from chemotherapy. The best is scalp cooling during chemotherapy. The cooling reduces the blood flow to the hair follicles, resulting in fewer chemotherapy medicines getting to the follicles. Scalp cooling does not work all of the time and is not available for all types of chemotherapy. It is the best way known so far to reduce hair loss. Although a number of other techniques have been tried for preventing hair loss from chemotherapy, none has achieved consistent success.
What Can I Do to Help My Hair Grow Back After Chemotherapy?
The first step in growing your hair back is to wait until your chemotherapy is complete. Once chemotherapy is complete, hair starts to return in 3-6 months. Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) has been shown to help regrow hair after chemotherapy. LLLT increases blood flow to the hair follicles. It also increases their metabolism and makes them larger. This helps lead to faster-growing and thicker hair. It also helps enlarge hair follicles that have become too small to produce visible hairs. This enables more hair to be grown. It can also restore some of the texture and color changes that have been lost. LLLT is safe and has no discomfort. We recommend twice a treatments a week for 3 months and then once a week for 3 months following chemotherapy. Many patients may desire monthly maintenance treatments after that. For additional reading on Low-Level Laser Therapy read our web pages Hair Restoration for Men and Hair Restoration for Women