If you’ve got cancer, no doubt you’re scared. Your world has been turned upside down, and you have months of what can be pretty rigorous treatment ahead of you as you fight this disease. Although it may not seem like it at first glance, one of the most devastating effects of chemotherapy can be the hair loss you experience as a side effect. Are there ways to forestall or prevent this hair loss, though? And if you can’t completely avoid the hair loss, what can you do to at least manage it until your hair grows back?
Check with your doctor about newer treatments
In some cases, some of the newer chemotherapy treatments are just as aggressive toward your cancer, but they won’t be killing healthy cells as indiscriminately — including the cells that grow hair. Unfortunately, some hair loss is probably inevitable, but some of the newer chemotherapy treatments are much gentler on healthy cells. That makes them much more pleasant to deal with them in that they have fewer side effects; you don’t feel as ill during treatment, and in some cases can almost live a normal life.
Traditionally, chemotherapy killed both healthy and cancerous cells, in a sort of “man the cannons” approach to try to wipe out cancer cells. This approach was devastating for hair follicle cells, too. Many of these new treatments will let you keep at least most of your hair during treatment — and that’ll be a boon for you psychologically as well as physically.
Get creative with scarves, hats and wigs
It’s often been said that for women especially, hair is “their crowning glory.” That’s true, but when you’re facing cancer and the chemotherapy that comes with it, it may just be that you have to lose your hair at least temporarily in order to save your life. If that happens, embrace the opportunity to get creative. Use scarves and wigs artistically, changing out your look whenever you want. (If you’re a natural brunette and you’ve always wanted to be a blonde, now’s the time!) Experiment! Try colorful scarves, different colored wigs, different hairstyles — the sky is the limit. (And by the way, several nonprofit organizations offer wigs to women free of charge who otherwise can’t afford them; these wigs are also often made of real hair, so that no one can tell you’re actually wearing a wig. This can give many women the psychological boost they need.)
Go “au naturel”
This isn’t the approach for everyone, to be sure, but for some women, facing everything head-on — including their loss of hair — is the only way to go. Therefore, if you’re losing your hair and you feel like it’s the right thing to do, shave your head and go bald until your hair grows back! It may just make you feel like you’re taking charge — which you are, of course — of everything, including your treatment. And that may help you get well.
One final point; chemotherapy hair loss is almost always temporary. In other words, once your treatment is over, your hair will grow back. Many people say, in fact, that your hair will grow back thicker than ever. So don’t sweat it; take your treatment, and if you lose your hair, know that it’ll be coming back better than ever when you, too, are “better than ever.”