Can cancer cause hair loss?

Most often people are mistaken when they claim that cancer is the cause of hair loss. The real cause of hair loss is chemotherapy. Do you want to know more about it? Read here!

hair loss from cancer

Cancer tumors in different organs can cause visible changes. Cancer affects metabolism, so the obvious symptom of cancer can be a loss of hair, fragile nails, discoloration of the skin, etc.
It was mentioned above that the primary cause of hair loss in cancer is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is one of the ways of treatment, which fight with malignant tumors. During treatment are used medicines, which impact on cancer cells detrimental. However, apart from the fact that chemotherapeutic agents affect tumor cells, they can also attack the most sensitive normal cells. Among them, there are cells responsible for the development and growth of the hair. So often, chemotherapy is accompanied by alopecia – baldness of the patient that is psychologically oppressive to endure, especially women. Because women are more susceptible to changes in their appearance, then man. In some types of chemotherapy may fall out even eyebrows and eyelashes.

READ ALSO: How cancer kills?

Why hair loss during chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy medicines are cytostatic. They help the body to stop cell division. Firstly, the effect of a cytostatic medicine on the actively-dividing cells. In addition to tumor cells, cells of the hair follicle are an active and capable dividing. Therefore, cytotoxic medications affect them, stopping their division, which ultimately leads to alopecia.

hair loss

Is it always hair loss during chemotherapy?

Not always. For example, in the treatment of breast cancer, if doctors use the scheme of treatment using cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and 5-fluorouracil, the hair may not fall out completely. Modern chemotherapy regimens help significantly reduce the likelihood of hair loss. Almost half of all cases of chemotherapy alopecia are not marked.


The occurring of alopecia can be assessed using the following criteria:

  • used chemotherapeutic medicines and their dosage;
  • the number of courses of chemotherapy;
  • the age of the patient;
  • hair type of the patient.

When do the hairs start to fall?

Often before the loss of hair, a person has scalp irritation. Typically, the hair begins to fall out 2-3 weeks after starting chemotherapy. In some cases, this happens sooner, and sometimes later. It all depends on the physiological characteristics of the patient and the prescribed treatment.

cancer and hair loss

Is it possible to prevent hair loss?

Yes, it is possible. One of the most effective methods for preventing alopecia is the cooling of the hair. In recent years, it became known that cold temperature can reduce and even completely stop hair loss. This effect is achieved due to reduced local blood flow, resulting in the hair follicles less susceptible to the effects of chemotherapeutic agents. For this purpose, doctors use a special cooling helmet, which is effective in 40-70% of cases, depending on the characteristics of the treatment and physiological parameters of the patient. The cooling helmet is worn by a medical worker on a patient's head during chemo treatment. This helmet contains a special gel which has previously been chilled in the freezer. The helmet is worn for 15 minutes before the chemotherapy session and remains on the head of the patient for 30 minutes after the procedure. Put the helmet on pre-moistened hair. In a lengthy session of chemotherapy, the helmet must be replaced by a new one. Besides cooling helmets, there are also cooling mittens and socks that will help to preserve the integrity of the nails of the patient during the passage of chemotherapy.

hair loss

When do the hairs start to grow?

How scary (from a psychological point of view) did not seem patient's hair loss, you need to remember following. The alopecia always has temporary character and after a certain amount of time hair is restored. Usually, the first few hairs start to grow already by the end of the chemotherapy course. Firstly, the most "hardly" high hair appears so that the first hair may be different stiffness. Full recovery is usual takes place approximately 3-6 months after the end of chemotherapy.

effect of cancer

Children with hair loss from cancer

For many teenagers with cancer hair loss can be a very discouraging factor, while younger children rarely pay attention to this phenomenon. Teenagers who have a cancer initiate the process of hair loss need a lot the support of adults. The adults should do everything they can help these children to fight with their problems. Often, teens want to know about their disease and whether it is possible somehow to hide its symptoms. There are such remedies that can help your child to fight with such difficult period. 

children cancer

How to prepare for hair loss?

First of all, take a photo of your child with the loss of his hair. If you need to make a wig, you can give the stylist the picture. It will allow you to recreate the natural hair of your child accurately. Also, cut off a small strand of hair, if necessary, to repeat their original color and structure.

  • You have to trim the hair of your child. If the hair looks short, the child will think that it is easy to cover them, for example with a hat or scarf, as soon as the hair begins to fall out. For many children, their appearance plays great importance. Taking care of it, you can make the treatment less painful for the child.
  • The communication with other children sick which have undergone the procedure of hair loss. Social workers at the hospitals can help you to find these kids.

hair loss

How to cope with the hair loss?

Before the hair loss:

  • Determine what you like to do: cut or shave the hair on your head. In this way, you can control hair loss;
  • If you are planning to buy a wig, buy it while you still have hair. The best time to purchase a wig – before chemotherapy or at the beginning of hair loss. Thus, the wig will be suitable in color and structure of your hair. Choose a comfortable wig;
  • Gently wash your hair. Use soft shampoo like for the baby. Do not dry hair fiercely with the towel;
  • Do not use the devices for curling, hair bands, gels, sprays, lacquers, and adhesives. They can damage the skin or cause early hair loss;
  • Use frequent nourishing mask with ceramides and proteins, as well as mask-greenhouses for hair olive, nettle or burdock oil;
  • To provide maximum comfort during sleep, using soft touch satin sheets, this reduces friction of the hair weave.

After hair loss:

  • Protect your head`s skin. After the hair loss, the skin may become more sensitive. Wear a hat, cap or a scarf. Try to avoid very high or low temperatures;
  • Avoid chemicals included in hair dyes and perms means which inhibit lifelessly and weakened hair follicles;
  • Remember, that hair loss occurs only in place of irradiation;

hair loss

Herbal medicine – medical hair restoration after chemotherapy

The main way to accelerate the process of hair restoration in folk medicine is to improve the blood supply to the skin of the head. As is known, blood flow can be cause due to the use of red spicy chili pepper varieties and infusions. The use of freshly prepared slurry from a mixture of red pepper in the composition with other herbal ingredients provides the skin effect, similar to the pepper patch. More gentle methods are masks made of fresh onion, with a warming effect. You can use different essential oils and do massage. 

Hair loss can be a psychological and emotional shock and can affect self-esteem and quality of life. However, hair loss usually is temporary, and hair grows back. Most people are depressed because of hair loss, they fell sadness or shame, subjected to bouts of uncontrollable aggression. In this period psychological support is necessary a lot for the patient. The time will come when all the excitement associated with hair loss after chemotherapy and will be remembered with a smile!


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