Treatments & Services

Hair Loss

Does all chemotherapy cause hair loss?

Some, not all, chemotherapy drugs may cause hair loss. The type of chemotherapy regimen and doses prescribed will affect your chances of hair loss. Radiation therapy only causes hair loss in the area being treated. Hair loss typically starts 2-4 weeks after your treatments have started. You may experience thinning of the hair or complete hair loss. Hair loss can occur to all areas of the body including eyebrows, eyelashes, pubic area, facial hair, etc. If you are receiving chemotherapy, you should discuss whether or not the drugs you are receiving might cause hair loss.

Why does Chemotherapy cause hair loss?

Chemotherapy not only destroys cancerous cells but also affects healthy cells in your body. The healthy cells that are most at risk for being killed by chemotherapy are those which tend to grow at a fast rate, including hair cells. Thinning of hair and, in some cases, complete hair loss may result. Hair loss caused by chemotherapy is temporary.

What can I do if hair loss is expected with my Chemotherapy treatment?

Each person responds differently when learning that they may experience partial or total hair loss. There is no right or wrong response. What is important is to do what you feel comfortable with, to do what is right for you.

Some options to consider include:

  • If you plan to purchase a wig, make an appointment with a wig stylist as soon as possible. It is much easier to match the color and texture of your hair to a wig when your hair is still in place. When hair loss begins, it often progresses quickly and the wig stylist may have only your description of your hair and/or pictures as a guide. If hair loss begins before your appointment, save some pieces of your hair and take them with you.
  • If a custom wig is too expensive, consider purchasing a less expensive, standard wig and having it professionally styled. Many wig salons offer this service, and the combined cost may be significantly less expensive than a custom wig. American Cancer Society and Cancer Action often have free wigs for patients.
  • If your hair is longer, cutting it shorter may help to decrease the impact of your hair loss when it occurs.
  • Some patients feel more in control if they shave their heads completely so they do not have to deal with the hair falling out. (Remember, baldheads are in style!)
  • In addition to, or instead of, buying a wig, consider scarves, turbans and hats to conceal hair loss.
  • Use a soft-bristle brush and a gentle, pH-balanced shampoo.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals (color, bleaching, permanents). All of these may cause dryness/brittleness and may cause your hair to fall out faster.
  • Sleep on a satin pillowcase to decrease friction.

Some insurance companies provide coverage for the purchase of wigs. Ask your doctor or nurse practitioner/physician assistant for a prescription. Check with your insurance company regarding coverage and limits. Keep in mind that the costs of wigs, scarves, false eyelashes, etc. are tax-deductible medical expenses.