Healthy Living

Coping with Hair Loss During Treatment

It Has Nothing to Do with Vanity: Coping with Hair Loss During Treatment

Coping with Hair Loss During Treatment

Some people think that people who get upset about losing their hair during treatment are too attached to their appearance, but this could not be farther from the truth.

It is perfectly okay to suffer emotionally when losing hair during cancer treatment, but there are ways to cope with it.

Why is hair loss so difficult?

Hair is a part of our identity - whether it's short, long, red, blonde, or even blue for some of us! It is a way of expressing ourselves, so it is only natural that losing our hair causes some emotionally suffering - not only for women, but for men as well.

Carrie Panzer is a social worker at Memorial Sloan Kettering and she explains, "appearance-related concerns are normal and to be expected throughout the cancer experience. Understanding this can be a key component in how you cope, now and even years into survivorship."

Panzer often assists patients to cope with the emotions behind diagnosis and treatment, and is able to assist getting through the hair loss as well. She has some tips that may assist.

Be prepared

Many find that if they know that their hair is going to fall out during treatment, it can be slightly easier to cope with once the moment does come. So, before you begin treatment, ask your oncologist whether the medication you are going to take causes hair loss. If the answer is yes, ask how quickly the process occurs.

There are a few types of chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant that result in losing hair, not only on your head, but on other areas of the body as well. If you use certain targeted or hormonal therapies over a long period of time, you may experience hair thinning, bald patches, or in certain circumstances, even complete hair loss. Radiation therapy often causes hair loss, but is usually limited to the area being treated.

Unfortunately, there are no ways to prevent hair loss at this time. However, Panzer says, "patient feedback has shown that treating your scalp gently, using mild hair-care products and a soft-bristle brush, and sleeping on a satin pillowcase can help reduce the amount of hair you lose and protect what remains."

Take control

Obviously, you will not be able to stop your hair from falling out. However that doesn't mean that there aren't any steps you can take to begin taking control of the situation. It is often a good idea to be proactive, and address the impending problem before it has the chance to occur on its own.

Many like to get short haircuts before their treatments. For one, changing up your look can sometimes give a boost of self-confidence, but it will also give the appearance of thicker hair. Also, if the hair is already short, the loss may not be as noticeable when it occurs. Some people go for a bob, but those who really want to take action beforehand go for a close crop. Many even decide to shave their head, taking the power back from cancer, as they would prefer to do it themselves to see it fall out in clumps over time.

Read on for even more tips on coping and preparing for hair loss.