Can Hair Be Preserved Through Chemotherapy?

If you or someone you care about are going through or are about to start chemotherapy, one of the side effects of chemo you've probably been told of is hair loss. It is an unfortunate fact of life for many people who experience chemotherapy, but others manage to go through it without losing their hair. Read this guide to find out why hair loss occurs and what you can do to help protect your or your loved one's hair.

Why Hair Falls Out

The first thing you should learn about is exactly why hair falls out when people go through chemotherapy in the first place. For most people, chemotherapy is introduced to the body through the bloodstream. This means that wherever the chemicals used in chemotherapy go, they have an effect on nearby cells.

Chemotherapy interrupts cells' ability to replicate and reproduce themselves. This means that cells that are rapidly replaced on a daily basis are most affected, like hair cells. If hair cells are impacted by the chemotherapy, hair may fall out sooner than usual, as the follicle stops growing the hair and it simply reaches its end. New hair may also take longer to come in, as the follicle may not produce a new one until after the chemotherapy's effects are over.

Treatments Vary

It's important to note that every kind of chemotherapy is tailored to the individual. The types of chemotherapy vary wildly because different chemicals work differently on different types of cancers. Chemotherapy used for breast cancer, for example, may use a completely different form of chemotherapy than one for melanoma, or skin cancer.

With these differences comes a different impact on hair cells. Some forms of chemotherapy cause less hair loss, and shorter chemotherapy treatments also reduce the risk. You can ask an oncologist for more information on the type of chemotherapy being used for the patient in question.

What You Can Do

Thankfully, unlike the old days, there are some things you can do to help increase the chances of keeping more of your hair. Chemo cold caps are one way to protect hair from chemotherapy. These are electronically powered hats that are designed to chill your scalp. They've been shown to have a 50% or more likelihood of losing less hair than people who go through the same type of chemotherapy without one.

The use of a cold cap typically doesn't get in the way of chemotherapy treatment at all and isn't considered uncomfortable by most. It will create a cooling sensation on the head and upper neck, but that just means that it's working. Since many people sleep during their chemotherapy treatments anyway, you may hardly notice that it's there once it's on.

Cold caps are one unique tool that can be helpful in preventing hair loss or reducing the amount of hair lost during chemotherapy. Find out if you qualify for a cold cap, and plan on having it available during the treatment.