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Does Chemotherapy lead to Baldness forever?

Dr. Aman Dua | October, 22 2014 | 0 Comments

image 1Being diagnosed with cancer, begins to seem like the end of the world for many people, and losing hair is just the starting of it all. While hair loss is a potent truth of cancer, because the associated treatment does lead to hair loss for many, it is not really the end of the world.

Let’s look at how chemotherapy or radiation therapy can lead to hair loss and how it can be dealt with:

Cancer is a condition that can affect any part of the body; the body has reduced capacity to fight the cancerous cells that are rapidly multiplying in the body, hence leading to other complications. However, in several cases, if the condition is diagnosed in time, radiation or chemotherapy can provide a cure.

The medicines that are used for chemotherapy are extremely strong and while they do destroy the cells that have cancer, they more often than not, also annihilate the good cells. One of the sets of good cells that get destroyed in the process is the hair root cells, and this is what leads to massive hair loss. However, it is not just the hair on the head that you can end up losing, but also on other parts of the body, including eyebrows, eye lashes, armpit, facial hair and even hair from your genital areas. The good news is that hair loss caused due to chemotherapy is most often temporary and hair does tend to grow back once the chemo or radiation therapy is over.

What you need to know:

In most image 2cases, the hair fall starts becoming obvious within a few days of the start of the treatment. While for some people the hair loss is gradual and presents itself in the form of few extra hairs falling each day, for many, the hair starts to fall out in clumps. This lost hair will become visible on pillows, towels and even the bathroom drains. For many people, there is also tenderness on the scalp.

As mentioned before, the hair will grow back in most cases, but there is quite the possibility that the hair that does grow back is of a different texture and not even as thick as it used to be. There have been recorded cases, where people with straight hair have new hair that is curly and for many, there has been hair growth in a different colour.

Is prevention possible?

There is actually no treatment till date that can assure that you will not lose hair due to chemotherapy, but there are methods of reducing the same. While you will have to be mentally prepared to lose a major part of your hair, there are a few procedures using which you will be able to utilise to some effect. These include:

  • Cryotherapy: Cooling the scalp is known to be an effective method of reducing the amount of hair loss due to chemotherapy. These days there are cooling caps which will create a situation of hypothermia on the scalp, numbing the hair follicles. This leads to leimage3sser hair fall, but this is not a proven method.
  • Cryogenic chambers: Going a step further with the concept of cryotherapy, scientists have now devised a cryogenic chamber, which works like a sauna room, but unlike it, the room is cooled down by several degrees. The person being administered would be seated in this chamber, during the process, allowing for the numbing of the entire body, hence reducing the chances of hair loss.

What else can be done?

There are certain other steps of precautions that can be taken and these can be categorised as follows:

Before If you are aware of the fact that you will be undergoing chemotherapy soon, it then it would be advisable that you stop using any chemicals on your hair, such as colours or bleach. It would also be a good idea to reduce the usage of heat on your hair. Cutting your hair short would also be a good idea, because then the hair loss would not be as obvious. If your doctor has informed you that the hair loss might be truly severe, then you could opt for hair pieces or wigs.
During When you are undergoing your treatment, it is important that you take really good care of your hair. Use a gentle shampoo and a soft brush to comb. Most hair experts would also suggest washing hair, only when absolutely important. Many people consider it a better option to simply shave their heads, while undergoing chemotherapy. Should you be going out in the sun during such a time, it is crucial that you apply sunscreen on your scalp or wear a hat, since your scalp will be extremely sensitive.
After Even after the completion of therapy, it is essential that you continue with the pampering of your remaining hair. This means, that you continue using a a gentle shampoo, a soft brush and avoiding heat or chemicals. Even when you start seeing a new crop of hair, it would be advisable that that you not colour or perm it. Allow your hair to grow back, because it will!


While chemotherapy and radiation therapy are known to cause loss of hair, as mentioned before, in most cases, the hair does grow back. However, it is best that you remain prepared for the loss and having friends and support groups at times like these, often proves helpful.

Dr. Aman Dua

Dr. Aman Dua

Dr. Aman Dua, Co-Founder & Managing Director at AK Clinics has over 14 years of clinical and teaching experience in the fields of Dermatology and Hair Transplant. Clinically, she has practiced aesthetic dermatology as a Consultant at Dayanand Medical Hospital, Ludhiana where she also served as the Assistant Professor & Skin Specialist for a number of years.

Over the course of her career, she has garnered acclaim as a facial aesthetics expert, with special interest in non-surgical acne scar removal. She practices as a Chief Dermatologist at Ludhiana Clinics.

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