Chemotherapy and hair loss: everything you need to know

Ismail Yusibov
Ismail Yusibov is the founder and content writer of the AlopeciaTips.

 Fact checked by Jessica Anderson

Written by Ismail Yusibov | Reviewed by Dr. Michael Carter


Hair loss is the most common side effect of cancer treatment, primarily caused by chemotherapy and sometimes radiotherapy.

Chemotherapy targets both harmful and harmless cells, leading to hair loss, as hair cells are highly sensitive.

Hair loss typically becomes noticeable within two weeks of starting chemotherapy, with sudden loss of all hair.

Hair will gradually grow back a few weeks after completing chemotherapy and radiotherapy, with possible temporary changes in texture.

Unfortunately, there is no effective way to prevent or minimize hair loss during cancer treatment.

Hair loss is the most common side effect of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy and sometimes radiotherapy used in cancer treatment can cause hair loss.

Many people are aware that they will experience hair loss before starting cancer treatment. Lost hair has become the biggest symbol of cancer.

Although precautions are taken to minimize the effects of hair loss in cancer treatments today, there is no way to prevent chemotherapy-induced hair loss.

What are the most common causes of hair loss during cancer treatment?

The most common cause of hair loss during cancer treatment is chemotherapy. In terms of its working principle, chemotherapy targets both harmful and harmless cells and tries to eliminate cancer from the body. Meanwhile, hair cells, which are the most sensitive cells in our body, are also damaged and hair loss occurs.

It is also possible to encounter hair loss during radiotherapy treatments involving the head and neck area. Just like chemotherapy, healthy hair follicles are affected and damaged by radiotherapy during the radiotherapy session.

Do all chemotherapy treatments cause hair loss?

Chemotherapy is the most important part of cancer treatment. Unfortunately, chemotherapy attacks all cells in the body. Meanwhile, your hair cells are also damaged and your hair falls out.

Chemotherapy can cause hair loss not only on the head but also on all parts of the body.

But this does not mean that all chemotherapy drugs will cause your hair to fall out. Some chemotherapy drugs cause partial hair loss or hair thinning.

How soon does hair loss usually appear after cancer treatment begins? 

Hair loss typically becomes noticeable within two weeks of starting chemotherapy treatment. This type of hair loss occurs suddenly, and all of your hair falls out within a matter of minutes.

What should you expect?

If you’re undergoing cancer treatment, unfortunately, hair loss is an inevitable side effect. You can consult your doctor about dietary supplements or medications that may help slow down hair loss, but they won’t completely prevent it.

Before commencing cancer treatment, I strongly recommend getting a haircut. Otherwise, when hair loss begins, there’s a high likelihood of finding hair scattered on your bed, desk, sink, or elsewhere, which can be emotionally distressing.

It’s important to recognize that hair loss is a common consequence of chemotherapy. As long as you’re undergoing chemotherapy, you will experience hair loss. However, after completing the treatment, your hair will gradually return to its previous state of health and appearance.

When will your hair grow back?

A few weeks after completing your chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, your hair will start growing quickly. During this time, you might observe changes in your hair’s texture or thickness. For instance, if you used to have straight hair, it could become curlier after cancer treatment. It’s important to note that these changes are temporary, and your hair will eventually return to its previous appearance.

Is there any way of preventing or minimizing hair loss caused by cancer treatment?

Hair loss due to cancer treatment cannot be prevented. No matter what you do or any measures you take to slow down, delay, or stop this process, they will prove ineffective. This occurs because cancer treatment damages all the hair follicles, leading to hair loss.

If you are going to receive cancer treatment, what should you do?

If you are going to be treated for cancer, consider cutting your hair before treatment. In this way, you will not have to experience an uncomfortable situation during hair loss.

Apart from this, it is important not to tire yourself emotionally and to remind that this process is completely temporary and your hair will grow back more beautiful than before.

During your cancer treatment, you should focus only on the treatment and not stress about your appearance.

Ismail YusibovIsmail Yusibov is the founder and content writer of the AlopeciaTips.

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