This seems a natural companion to yesterday's piece about nausea since hair loss is the other major hated side effect from chemotherapy. Not all chemo drugs cause hair loss (alopecia), but those used in standard adjuvant treatment do. I have written an information sheet about dealing with anticipated hair loss: when to expect it, how to deal with the crisis, what to put on your head. If you would like a copy, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Today's posting is a short article (or, rather, the introduction and then a link) about managing hair loss. Frankly, I find the tone a bit off-putting, but the information may be of interest to you. Please note: the author refers to "scalp cooling" as a way to possibly minimize hair loss. This theory has been around for a long time, and I remember women sitting in our Infusion Area, with special ice turbans on their heads, twenty years ago. There were and are several problems with this strategy: 1) the ice packs often give the wearer intense headaches, 2) there is some concern about reducing blood flow to the scalp because the whole idea of chemotherapy is to get the anti-cancer drug everywhere in your body, and 3) it does not work very well. Women still lose their hair. That said, here is the article from MedScape:
Chemotherapy-induced Hair Loss R. M. Trüeb, MD
Chemotherapy-induced hair loss occurs with an estimated incidence of 65%. Forty-seven percent of female patients consider hair loss to be the most traumatic aspect of chemotherapy and 8% would decline chemotherapy due to fears of hair loss. At present, no approved pharmacologic intervention exists to circumvent this side-effect of anticancer treatment, though a number of agents have been investigated on the basis of the current understanding of the underlying pathobiology. Among the agents that have been evaluated, topical minoxidil was able to reduce the severity or shorten the duration, but it did not prevent hair loss. The major approach to minimize chemotherapy-induced hair loss is by scalp cooling, though most published data on this technique are of poor quality. Fortunately, the condition is usually reversible, and appropriate hair and scalp care along with temporarily wearing a wig may represent the most effective coping strategy. However, some patients may show changes in color and/or texture of regrown hair, and in limited cases the reduction in density may persist.