The clinical term describing hair loss is alopecia. Hair loss usually occurs two to three weeks after the beginning of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The rate at which people lose hair varies, as each person responds differently to treatment. Several days before hair loss occurs, your scalp may become very itchy and sensitive.
Chemotherapy may affect all body hair. Since scalp hair is generally in an active growth phase, it is affected by chemotherapy more often than other body hair. Alopecia is usually temporary among patients receiving chemotherapy. The degree of hair loss is dependent on the drug and dosage used.
Radiation therapy affects hair in the area being irradiated. With radiation therapy, hair loss may or may not be permanent. The amount of hair loss can range from thinning to complete baldness. The quantity of hair loss as a result of radiation therapy is dose and site-dependent.
Cancer cells divide and grow rapidly. Hair is also made up of fast-growing cells. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are designed to destroy any cells that multiply quickly, and cannot differentiate between cancer cells and hair cells. This causes the hair to fall out at the root.
Before hair loss occurs, see a professional who can assist you in selecting a wig that closely matches your hair style and color and who will show you other hair alternatives. Early consultation can ease your mind before you begin your treatment. Have a friend or family member present to offer support and a second opinion.
There are a number of natural-looking hair replacements that will stay in place, are easy to care for, comfortable to wear, and reasonably priced.
If fitted properly and securely, your wig will be comfortable. We recommend wearing a cotton skull cap under the wig to reduce itching. Wigs can be resized to fit your head.
Tips for securing wig:
While every insurance plan is different and there is no guarantee of coverage in all cases, these guidelines may assist you in obtaining insurance reimbursement.
Making an appointment for a compression garment, wig, breast prosthesis, or bra fitting is helpful to us so we can give you our full attention and reduce your wait time. By scheduling ahead, we can verify the necessary prescription and insurance information, which will minimize your wait when you come in for your consultation. You can be confident that we will make every effort to accommodate your needs.
To schedule an appointment, please call 617-632-2211.
If we are able to accommodate walk-ins, we will be more than happy to help you.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 450 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215 | Call us toll-free:
(866) 408-DFCI (3324)