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Hair Loss • Cancer • Chemotherapy • Radiation Therapy • Alopecia

Any of these words can create a sense of fear and anxiety. Patients are understandably uneasy about the treatment and possible side effects, particularly hair loss. It's only natural. This is not an everyday occurrence for you. You may not be prepared, but given the facts and the opportunity to study them, you will feel less fearful. You can begin to feel better about the treatment, and you'll cooperate better because you understand what is happening and more importantly why it is happening. Our hope here is to give you some of the facts in non-medical language about the relationship between chemotherapy, radiation therapy, alopecia and hair loss.

How Hair Grows


The Root of the Process... It surprises most people to learn the strands of their growing hair are technically lifeless. Real growth only takes place in the hair follicle (the root). Here a constant process of cell division is taking place. Certain amino acids – nature’s building blocks – are taken from the blood feeding the hair roots, to be joined with the dividing cells. New cells begin to form into chains. Those chains link up with other chains. The result is a long fiber. By this time, the nucleus of the original cell is dead. The amino acids have formed into a hard keratin.

What is Keratin? It is the protein substance that hair and nails are made from. It is inert or lifeless. It gets pushed ahead by the newly forming cells in the hair root (follicle). As it gets pushed farther and farther out, hair appears to “grow”. And in a sense it really does. From the roots, not at the ends. This briefly sums up a very complex chemical process. The point is, hair growth takes place in the hair root where the amino acids from the blood first join with the dividing cells. Significantly, this same process is the one by which all body cells reproduce themselves. The hair follicle follows this pattern on a cyclical basis. That is, the root builds the hair shaft for a period of time, and rests for a while. Then, it begins producing hair again. The building state is one of the body’s most active “growing” processes.

Anti-Cancer Drug Effects on Your Hair


Since cancer is a condition of uncontrolled cell growth, anticancer drug administration (such as chemotherapy) aims at reducing, or stopping, this abnormal growth. Anti-cancer drugs act on both normal cells and cancerous cells. All cells are more receptive to the action of drugs during active cell reproduction. Cells which reproduce most rapidly are those most likely to be destroyed. Some normal cells – such as hair follicles- also divide rapidly, which is why they are also affected by chemotherapy.

At any one time, about 85% of the hair follicles are reproducing. This is when the hair gets longer. For this reason chemotherapy drugs whose chief purpose is to attack and destroy the rapidly reproducing cancer cells may have the same effect on your active hair cells.

When chemotherapy is completed, you can expect that the hair follicles will resume their task of processing amino acids from your blood and building new hair again.

Alopecia in Women


Hair Loss can be temporary or permanent. Alopecia in Women may be attributed to four factors: extreme shock or stress to the body’s nervous system, aging, hormones, or genetics.

The patchy hair loss is usually due to alopecia areata, an autoimmune skin disease, which causes bald patches to appear on the scalp. Areata is Latin for “round” or “circumscribed”, which means that people usually see bald spots here and there, or little tiny short hairs that are broken off. In alopecia Areata, the affected hair follicles are mistakenly attacked by a persons own immune system (white blood cells) resulting in the arrest of the hair growth stage. Alopecia usually starts with one or two smooth round bald patches on the scalp and can progress to total scalp hair loss. Treatments are few and mostly unsuccessful in regaining the hair loss.

Alopecia Hair Loss Video

NOTE: If the video pauses, please allow it time to buffer far enough before hitting play.
Watch for the gray bar to progress further to the right of the gray circle, then press play again.

Hair Loss Alternatives

Losing your hair is one of the most frustrating and fearful situations that people experience during this time of change. It will take some adjustment but the good news is alternatives do exist.

Most people act quickly to discover an alternative and this is the best approach to maintain a healthy outlook and fight the onset of depression. You’ll have the time and energy to make your choices. Whether to choose to just cover your head with a hat, scarf, turban, or choose a fashionable, quality wig that immolates the former style and color you wore or one you always wanted. Even better, choose several comfortable options to offer you choices later on. The possibilities are not only endless, but very attractive.
Hat with a hair solution
A wig or prosthesis may be a tax deductible expense and is sometimes covered by insurance. Wigs and Things can help provide you more information so be sure to ask when you come in for consult. By all means, feel free to contact your health insurance company to find out more.
modern styled, reddish wig
Some hospitals, clinics, organizations and wig salons (including Wigs and Things) have donated wigs for free or offer programs to off set the cost for cancer patients.

We hope knowing this information will help you cope better with the expected hair loss during therapy. When in doubt, consult your medical team. And remember a positive attitude is very powerful.
Wigs and Things can help provide you more information so be sure to ask when you come in for consult.
Thankfully the fake-looking wigs are a thing of the past. Technology has advanced considerably.
Short hair styled wig
You can look the way you like. You can even enhance your self image. The most popular, affordable and stylish options are our fantastic new synthetic wigs. They come in a multitude of color blends, curl and wave patterns. They are so affordable you can have two or three to switch on and off to fit your mood. These wigs are easy to style, wash, and dry -- they need so little care.

One of our Wig Specialists can show you the new comfort caps which breathe and are non-irritating to you scalp. The composition of fiber, size, fit and comfort are the most important factors to consider when picking out a wig. These qualities are closely followed by the style and coloration that is suitable to your face shape and skin tone.

Wearing a wig should be a time of comfort and assurance. Allowing a professional wig specialist who offers a quality product will always trump over a catalog wig that looses its look after only a few weeks. Remember, the sweetness of low cost never equals the bitterness of low quality.
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