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Cancer treatment related hair Loss

A number of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, whilst battling cancer, can result in hair loss. Often this is referred to as Chemotherapy or Radiotherapy induced Alopecia. 

Chemotherapy

Some chemotherapy drugs do not make hair fall out or the amount of hair lost is so slight it is hardly noticeable. Some chemotherapy can damage the hair and make it brittle. If this happens, the hair may break off near the scalp a week or two after the chemotherapy has started. Some chemotherapy drugs can make all hair fall out and this can be very upsetting.

The amount of hair that falls out, if any, depends on the type of drug or combination of drugs used, the dose given and how the drug affects the individual.

If the hair falls out, it usually starts within a few weeks of beginning treatment, although very occasionally it can start within a few days. Underarm, body and pubic hair may be lost as well. Some drugs also make the eyelashes and eyebrows fall out. If hair does fall out due to the chemotherapy, it will grow back over a few months once treatment has finished. It is also not uncommon for hair to sometimes begin to regrow in-between treatments and fall out again when the next treatment session takes place.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy directed to the head will always cause some hair loss.  If treatment is directed to a particular part of your head or neck, the hair will only fall out in that area.  There may also be some hair loss on the opposite side of the head or neck - where the radiotherapy beams pass through.  This is called the 'exit site'. When treatment has finished, the hair will usually grow back.  It may not be quite as thick as before and in some people it can be patchy.  The more radiotherapy treatments received, the longer the hair will take to grow back.

More often than not, hair will begin to re-grow soon after treatment has finished. Although it will be worth explaining that hair may, for some people, grow back a different colour or curly when it used to be straight.