It is no secret that a cancer patient may experience hair loss, either due to the symptoms of their particular disease, or due to the treatment of the cancer itself. If you or someone you love is in this situation, it helps to know what you might expect. Here are a few points of information for cancer patients, whether their diagnosis is melanoma, lymphoma, or a brain tumor.
1) Most people, even non-patients, have come to know and expect that chemotherapy can cause hair loss. However, it is less well-known that shedding can come from both the treatment and the cancer itself. Unexplained significant weight loss, an early symptom of many types of cancer can cause hair loss all by itself. And different cancers that occur in skin that has hair (like melanoma for instance) might cause destruction of the hair around it. Doctors term this sort of hair loss telogen effluvium, while hair loss from chemotherapy is known as anagen effluvium. Either way, patients can los significant amounts of hair before, during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment. The good thing about these types of hair loss is that they often reverse on their own. The other good thing is that medications like Rogaine and Propecia can help to speed re-growth.
2) Radiation can cause permanent hair loss, also due to anagen effluvium, and it can occur very rapidly. Even though patients usually associate hair loss with loss of scalp hair due to radiation for a brain tumor, hair loss can occur anywhere skin with hair is treated, including the face, the breast, beard or neck area. This type of hair loss is often permanent, but can be treated successfully with hair transplantation or other hair restoration surgery techniques.
3) Many cancers require resection, surgical removal, as part of the cure. Unfortunately, if the cancer is something like melanoma, which typically occurs in a sun-exposed and hair-bearing area, the surgical scars typically do not re-grow hair. However, this type of hair loss again can be successfully treated with hair transplantation. Since surgical scars can be a visual reminder of the ordeal that is cancer survival, the results and the healing from this type of hair restoration surgery are often a dramatically emotional as well as a visual improvement.
Cancer is a frightening diagnosis and the physical changes that accompany the treatment can be as frustrating and dramatic as the treatment itself. Since hair loss is of the more visible manifestations of these changes, it is helpful to know what to expect and what treatments are available to combat them.