Hair loss is a common side effect experienced when receiving chemotherapy treatments, a condition called Anagen Effluvium. This condition results in the shedding of large clumps of hair within a few days to weeks of a patient’s first chemo infusion. While the amount of hair loss can vary from person to person, prevention can still be taken to reduce the severity of Anagen Effluvium.
Start a Hair Care Regimen Before beginning Chemotherapy
A key for preventing hair loss during chemotherapy is to ensure your scalp and hair are as healthy as possible before beginning treatments. Start a hair care regimen with way to prevent hair loss, such as using gentle shampoos, using a wide toothed comb when brushing, and using moisturizing hair masks.
Reduce Exposure to Chemotherapy
If you have the option, consider a low dose or “pulse” chemotherapy, which features lower doses given over the course of several days or weeks, with breaks in between. This type of chemotherapy reduces the overall exposure to toxic medications, which can help reduce the amount of hair loss experienced.
Use Specific Hair Loss Treatments
There are a range of hair loss treatments available, many of which have shown to be effective in reducing hair loss once chemotherapy has started. A few of these treatments include antioxidants such as zinc, biotin, fish oil, and folate; topical minoxidil (Rogaine); and PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injections. Consult with your doctor to determine which hair loss treatments are the best options to prevent and reduce hair loss during chemotherapy.
Using Cold Caps During Treatment
Using cold caps to cover your scalp when chemotherapy drugs are administered may also help minimize hair loss. Cold caps cause blood vessels within the scalp to constrict, reducing the amount of chemotherapy medication that can reach the hair follicles. Despite the cold temperatures involved, many patients find the use of cold caps during chemotherapy to be tolerable; many chemo centers provide cold caps and help during use.
Anagen Effluvium is an unfortunate side effect of chemotherapy treatments, but there are a variety of treatments and precautions for preventing hair loss. Make sure to discuss your options with your healthcare team so that you can keep your hair as healthy as possible throughout treatment.