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Dealing With Hair Loss From Cancer Treatment: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Hair loss is a common and often distressing side effect of some cancer treatments. For many people, hair loss is one of the toughest aspects of treatment. Some people have mild thinning, while others lose all their hair. Hair loss may occur all over the body. If you do lose hair, it will almost always grow back after your treatment ends. But your hair might grow back a different colour or texture. A person who had straight hair before treatment may find that he or she has curly hair afterward.

During your treatment, you may be able to use haircuts to hide hair loss or to make the hair you have left look its best. You may want to wear scarves and hats. Wigs or hairpieces also are an option. Or you may feel more comfortable leaving your head uncovered. Some people switch back and forth, depending on whether they are in public or at home with friends and family members.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take good care of your scalp and the hair you have. Use a mild shampoo and a soft hairbrush.
  • Air-dry your hair. If you have to use a hair dryer, use the low-heat setting.
  • Think about cutting your hair short. A shorter style will make your hair look thicker and fuller. It also will make hair loss easier to manage if it occurs. But do not shave your head while your platelet and white blood cell counts are low. Low platelet and white blood cell counts can increase the risk of bleeding or infection if you cut or nick your head while shaving.
  • Sleep on a satin pillowcase. This will reduce friction on your scalp.
  • Do not use brush rollers to set your hair.
  • Do not dye your hair or get a permanent while you are taking chemotherapy or if you are getting radiation to your scalp.
  • Use sunscreen or a hat, scarf, or wig to protect your scalp from the sun.
  • If you choose a wig or hairpiece:
    • Shop for your wig or hairpiece before you lose a lot of hair so that you can match your natural colour, texture, and style. You may be able to buy a wig or hairpiece at a specialty shop just for people with cancer. Often a salesperson will come to your home to help you. For more information, contact your local chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society or call the Canadian Cancer Society toll-free at 1-888-939-3333.
    • You may prefer to borrow rather than buy a wig or hairpiece. If so, call your local Canadian Cancer Society chapter or check with the social work department at your treatment centre.
    • Remember that a hairpiece needed because of cancer treatment may be at least partially covered by your provincial health plan or private health insurance.

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.