A common side-effect of cancer treatment is hair loss. Dr Apoorva Shah lists out ways to deal with the problem...
Hair is a vital part of an individual’s look and losing it can be the biggest nightmare. Hair loss or alopecia is considered one of the most common side-effects of cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
These treatments not only destroy the cancer cells, but also the normal healthy cells like hair follicles that promote hair growth. Hair loss mostly depends on the type and dosage of the drug consumed by the patient as well as its sensitivity on the individual patient. The fact, though, remains that chemotherapy can lead to tremendous amount of hair fall.
Hair usually starts falling out 10-14 days after the treatment starts and continues falling throughout the treatment. Luckily, it takes about 4-6 weeks for hair to regrow after chemotherapy. However, the hair may lose its natural texture.
The change is usually temporary and one can get back their normal hair over a period of time and with proper care.
One way to prevent alopecia during cancer treatment is scalp hypothermia called ‘cryotherapy’ in which ice packs or cold caps are used to lower down the temperature of the scalp, which in turn reduces blood flow to the scalp, thereby lowering the effects of drugs reaching the hair follicles. Radiation therapy, on the other hand, affects the area of treatment in which case a person has probability of losing hair if the treatment area is the head.
Another way to prevent hair loss is the tricho-active application treatment, which assures natural-looking hair, without undergoing painful surgery. This results in hair, which is resistant to heat, water and chemicals so that the patient can continue with the regular activities such as swimming, taking a shower and the like.
Vitamin-rich food and mild shampoos also help in regaining the lost hair. As these precautions and care go hand-in-hand, the most important thing is the courage to fight the trauma of losing the hair and self-confidence. And this is where the family, friends and trichologists play the key role in giving maximum care and support to the cancer patient in order to help get them out of their distress.
(The writer is a trichologist and founder of Richfeel Trichology Centre)