Does Radiation Cause Hair Loss?

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Hair fall is an intimidating condition. We all have sleepless nights while thinking about hair fall. You can lose your crowning glory due to a number of reasons including heredity, age or medication. For instance, people who are treated for cancer often lose hair. Hair loss can be one of the most difficult side effects of cancer treatments. Many people ask does radiation cause hair loss and the only answer to this most common question is, yes. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy can cause hair loss by harming the cells that help hair grow.

Though, hair loss from cancer treatment is temporary, it is still scary to find a chunk of hair on your pillow every morning. Normally, hair grows back once therapy has been completed. The amount of hair loss depends on the cancer treatment, the dose of treatment, and how it is given. If your treatment affects the hair, your hair may start falling out between 2-3 weeks after you start your treatment. It is important that you look for the best hair loss treatments to get back your tresses.

Radiation and hair loss

Hair follicles are highly sensitive to radiation, and your treatments may cause you to lose hair. Most patients notice hair loss within the treatment area about three weeks after the start of radiation. Therefore, it will be better if you cut short your hair prior starting radiation therapy. Alternatively, you can wear a wig according to your original hair in order to hide thinning and hair loss.

Hair loss may be temporary or permanent, depending on the amount of radiation received and other treatments you may be receiving, such as chemotherapy. If your hair loss is temporary, it will probably re-grow within 3 to 6 months after your treatment is complete. You may notice that the re-growth of hair is thinner or a different texture.

Radiation therapy and scalp condition

Your scalp is sensitive to radiation, especially after hair loss. Your skin may also become tender, pink or inflamed just like a sunburn. After two or three weeks of treatment, your scalp may become itchy and dry. In this situation, you should notify your health care provider for a reliable solution.

Drugs causing hair loss

  • Capecitabine (Xeloda)

  • Busulfan

  • Cytarabine (ARA-C)

  • Doxorubicin liposomal (Doxil)

  • Fluorouracil (5-FU)

  • Decitabine (Dacogen)

  • Mitomycin

  • Mitoxantrone

  • Pemetrexed (Alimta)

  • Oxaliplatin

 

Solutions

The following recommendations may help you caring for your hair and scalp during cancer treatment:

Wash rarely – Consider not washing every day. Wet hair are more prone to breakage and you may end up losing handful of hair every time you wash. Also, do not scrub vigorously. Avoid brushing especially when the hair are wet.

Use Mild Shampoo – Choose a mild shampoo, such as a baby shampoo, to clean the hair. Using harsh shampoo can make your hair dry and brittle. Shampoos contain chemicals which can harm your already sensitive hair. Mild shampoos can be a good alternative in such situations.

Protection – Use sun protection on the scalp when outdoors, such as sunscreen, a hat, or a scarf. This will avoid damaging your scalp and hair. Also, make sure you choose a soft hairbrush and gently style the hair.

Avoid styling – Blow-drying, curling or straightening the hair with chemical products can add to the injury. Avoid harsh and excessive styling till the treatment is on.

Hair fall solution – When it comes to dealing with hair fall due to radiation, one of the most effortless solution is hair pieces. Wigs can help you in covering those bald patches (if any) and will provide a solution to thinning.