Cancer is hard enough, losing hair is just another issue!( hair removal 10024 )

For women with breast cancer, dealing with the diagnosis can be challenging. And the treatment itself can be equally challenging. If the treatment includes chemotherapy, women face another possible issue: Hair loss. Scientists are working on the problem. Some solutions, like Rogaine, have been around for a while. Others, like skullcaps, have come into vogue the past year.

Why treatment causes hair loss

Chemotherapy drugs, including doxorubicin, paclitaxel, and docetaxel, “almost always cause hair loss,” said Dr. Nicole Williams, a breast medical oncologist with The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G James Hospital and Richard J Solove Research Institute.( hair removal 10024)

“Hair loss occurs because chemotherapy agents are directed at rapidly dividing cancer cells, but other rapidly dividing healthy cells, such as hair follicles, are also affected,” Williams told Healthline. “Hair follicles are some of the fastest growing in the body.”

Within two to four weeks of starting chemotherapy, women may lose some or all of their hair. ( hair removal 10024)thinning_hair_ujobpp

Sometimes the loss is gradual. Other times, it’s sudden.

Some chemotherapy medications affect only the hair on the head, but others can cause loss of body hair including eyebrows and eyelashes. ( hair removal 10024)

Hair loss only occurs in areas where radiation is directed.

About a month or so after the treatment ends, the hair typically grows back, although it may be a different color or texture. A few months after, it often returns to its normal texture.

Chemotherapy isn’t the only cancer treatment that causes hair loss. Hormonal therapy such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors may cause hair thinning. ( hair removal 10024)

Preventing hair loss

How can women prevent hair loss?

Cold caps are growing in popularity, and one was cleared last December by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). ( hair removal 10024)

The DigniCap scalp-cooling system reduces the likelihood of chemotherapy-induced hair loss. ( hair removal 10024)

The Mount Sinai Health System (MSHS) is using the cap at three of its cancer center locations.

In this treatment, the patient puts on the silicone cap, which is covered with a neoprene cap to insulate and secure it. ( hair removal 10024)

The cap is then connected to a unit that controls a coolant that circulates through the headwear. This works by lowering the scalp’s temperature and restricts how much chemotherapy gets to the scalp. ( hair removal 10024)

The cap is worn before, during, and after treatments.

In clinic trials, seven out of 10 patients with early stage breast cancer retained about 50 percent of their hair when using the system.

It was tested at Mount Sinai, where Dr. Paula Klein, an associate professor of oncology and hematology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, studied it.( hair removal 10024)

“If you cool the scalp, the chemotherapy doesn’t get there. It’s purely mechanical,” Klein told Healthline.

It’s not the only scalp-cooling technique that’s used. Others, however, were more complicated to use and cold on the head, Klein said.

They also had to be rotated every 20 or 30 minutes, which became cumbersome. ( hair removal 10024)

The DigniCap is not as complicated to use. It is only for early stage breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, Klein noted. ( hair removal 10024)

DigniCap costs vary depending on how much chemotherapy is needed, but they run about $1,000 to $3,000 for an entire chemotherapy cycle. ( hair removal 10024)

Insurance companies are starting to offer some coverage for the treatment and some medical centers offer financial assistance. ( hair removal 10024)

HairToStay.org is a nonprofit organization that offers financial assistance to patients. ( hair removal 10024)

( hair removal 10024)

 

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