Alopecia (Hair Loss) during Cancer Treatment
Will I lose my hair?
Chemotherapy works by killing fast growing
cancer cells. It also affects some fast
growing normal cells such as hair, skin, and
intestinal cells. Many chemotherapy drugs
and cancer treatments cause hair loss. Ask
your doctor or nurse if the treatment you are
getting is likely to cause hair loss. Some
treatments can cause loss of hair from places
other than your head. You may lose hair
from your eyebrows, eyelashes, underarms,
and pubic hair.
When will I lose my hair?
Hair loss can begin as early as the second or
third week after the first treatment. Hair
loss can be sudden or slow. You may lose
some or all of your hair, or it may just
become thin. Your hair will not fall out all
at once. It most often falls out in clumps.
Rather than lose their hair gradually, some
people elect to cut their hair shorter or to
shave their heads altogether as they begin
Will my hair grow back?
Yes, the hair loss from cancer treatment is
most likely temporary. Hair can grow back
3 – 6 months after your last treatment. Your
hair may grow back a different color or
texture. Your hair may be dyed once it
grows back, but be cautious, as your scalp
may be more easily irritated after treatment.
What can I do before or while my hair
While you are waiting for your hair to grow
back, you may choose to use wigs, turbans,
scarves, or caps to cover your head. If you
know your hair is going to fall out, you may
want to plan ahead and get a wig that
matches your current style or color. While
you are going through hair loss, you will
want to avoid dyes and permanents, which
can be too harsh for your scalp. You may
need to switch to gentle shampoos. Use
sunscreen (PABA free) and a head cover to
protect your head from the sun.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 12/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6570