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Preparing For Hair Loss In Cancer

When you’re first diagnosed with cancer. there are a lot of different things that go through your mind. It's a lot to take in, but during the discussion with your doctor, the subject of treatment should come up. This will be different depending on the type and aggressiveness of your cancer, but one of the most common options to try is chemotherapy.

We know, that's a very scary word. And one of the big concerns a lot of women in particular worry about is hair loss. Around 65% of people who undergo chemo will experience some level of hair loss, from mild thinning to complete loss of all hair on their body. And while the idea of not having to shave for a while is a bonus, the loss of hair is a very big thing. It's such a crucial part of our identity, and losing it can be a real blow. It’s something Jill, our charity namesake, struggled with a lot, so today we wanted to share some options with you.

Cold Capping

One method you can use to prevent hair loss is called cold Capping. This is where you wear a tightly - fitted hat that is filled with a super-cooled get that you wear during chemotherapy treatments. These caps are incredibly cold, and the idea is to restrict blood vessels beneath the skin of the scalp, temporarily slowing blood flow. This limits the amount of chemotherapy drug that can get into the hair follicle, and dramatically reduces the chance of hair loss.

There are some caveats to cold capping. The first is that you have to use it from your very first treatment -otherwise it will be ineffective. And you need to wear it for every infusion you have for 30-50 minutes before, during the infusion and for some time after (this can range from 20 minutes to 4 hours). It's a pretty significant time investment.

The second caveat is that there are certain types of cancer that cold caps can't be used for. Mainly, anything in the lymphoma (or blood cancer) family. This is because the cancer is in the blood rather than localised in one place, and by restricting where the chemotherapy can go within your blood will make the treatment effective.

Consider Cutting Your Hair

Short hair generally looks fuller than short hair, which makes it much less noticeable if it does start to fall out. Hair tends to fall out in clumps, which is more obvious and shocking in longer hair. So if you've always wanted to know what you'd look like with short hair, now is the time to find out! You could even experiment with different colours and styles, and make the most of the experience. Cutting your hair short can also help make the transition. to steal hair loss a bit easier.

Plan Ahead For Head Coverings

Covering your head as your hair falls out is an entirely personal decision, and not one anyone else can make for you. For many people hair is strongly linked to their identity and is a mental symbol of health - so they choose to wear a wig. If you go down this route, it's best to get one before you start treatments. This is so that you can have it styled and colour-matched to your hair, and because it means you will have it on hand if your hair falls out quicker than expected.

Other people choose to cover their heads with hats and scarves during this time. Headscarves and hijabs are popular choices as they are available in a wide range of styles, colours and patterns, so you can access arise them to your wood or outfit. We recommend trying lots of different options until you find something you're comfortable in, and then build up your supply! Others still choose not to cover their heads at all. Whether you preemptively shave your head or leave your hair to fall out naturally, it's important to invest in proper scalp care and protection. This will include things like sun protection, which is often forgotten.

It's Not Just Your Head

Unfortunately, chemo doesn't just affect the hair on your head. It can also, In some cases, cause the hair of your eyebrows and eyelashes to fall out too. This is a cruel blow, especially for women and the beauty standards pushed on them. If this happens to you, there are some options. Makeup is a common solution, and in fact, there are many charities that offer free makeup lessons to teach people how to fill in eyebrows and eyelashes. There is also permanent makeup like microblading or semi-permanent options like eyelash extensions. So you can still keep something of your own look!

Will My Hair Grow Back?

Short answer- yes! Once you've stopped relieving treatment your hair will restart its growth cycle - though it may take several weeks before you can see it.

When your hair does start to grow back, it might be slightly different to the hair you had before. Many people report their hair growing back in a slightly different colour or a new texture. If your hair was curly, your curl pattern may be different. It could even grow back grey! Most of these changes are only temporary- especially the grey hair. That only lasts until the cells controlling the hair pigment can start working again.

Hair loss can be a really scary thing to face, but it's important to know you aren't alone. Thousands of people know your struggle, and there is always support available if you need it. And if you need a break from reality while you come to terms with it, then the doors to Jill's place are always open.


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