Chemotherapy side effect – Hair Loss

chemotherapy-side-effect-hair-loss

Because these medicines travel through the blood to the entire body, chemotherapy is described as a body-wide treatment. The most common chemotherapy agents act by killing cells that divide rapidly, one of the main properties of most cancer cells.

Chemotherapy side effects – Hair loss

Because these medicines travel through the blood to the entire body, chemotherapy is described as a body-wide treatment. The most common chemotherapy agents act by killing cells that divide rapidly, one of the main properties of most cancer cells.

As a result, chemotherapy may damage or kill some normal cells.

When this damage occurs, there can be hair loos, because certain chemotherapeutic drugs may bring damage to the rapidly growing cells of hair follicles and cause hairs to fall or can cause them to thin.

Chemotherapy induced hair loss can manifest as:

a)    Alopecia totalis, is a condition characterized by the complete loss of hair on the scalp;

b)    Telogen effluvium, is a scalp disorder characterized by the thinning or shedding of hair resulting from the early entry of hair in the telogen phase (the resting phase of the hair follicle); or less often

c)    Alopecia areata, is patchy baldness that typically begins with rapid hair loss on discrete areas of the scalp and sometimes progresses to complete baldness and even loss of body hair. The characteristic diagnostic finding is short, broken hairs called ‘exclamation point’ hairs.

Hair loss is not a life-threatening event but sometimes it causes harassment in patients. Hair loss is often a temporary effect although permanent cases of hair loss can occur. Hair may start to grow near the end of the treatment or after the treatment is finished. When hair grows back, the color and texture of hair may be different. Some people get their new hair as darker and curlier. The texture is usually soft and downy at first and tends to improve over the next few months.

Side effects of chemotherapy depend on many things, including the type of cancer and which drugs are being used. Each person reacts differently to these drugs. Some newer chemotherapy drugs that better target cancer cells may cause fewer or different side effects.

Severe hair loss occurs most often with drugs such as Altretamina (Hexalen), Carboplatino (Paraplatin), Cisplatino (Platinol), Ciclofosfamida (Neosar), Docetaxel (Taxotere), Doxorrubicina (Adriamycin, Doxil), Epirrubicina (Ellence), Etopósido (Toposar, VePesid, Etopophos), Fluorouracilo (5-FU), Gemcitabina (Gemzar), Idarrubicina (Idamycin), Ifosfamida (Ifex), Paclitaxel, Vincristina (Marqibo, Vincasar), Vinorelbina (Alocrest, Navelbine)

Permanent thinning or hair loss can result from some standard chemotherapy regimens and appears more frequently in women. The main reason is that one of the types of chemotherapy that most associated with this phenomenon are that used in breast cancer.

Permanent thinning or hair loss is also common in patients who have undergone a bone marrow transplant, even as children.

The mechanism by which this phenomenon occurs is not entirely clear, but it is believed that this type of chemotherapy can produce permanent damage to the bulb and follicular stem cells.

Scalp cooling offers a means of preventing both permanent and temporary hair loss; however, concerns about this method have been raised.

Your health care provider will explain what you can do at home to prevent or treat some chemotherapy side effects. These measures include:

Being careful with pets and other animals to avoid catching infections from them

Eating enough calories and protein to keep your weight up

Preventing bleeding, and what to do if bleeding occurs

Practicing safe eating and drinking habits

Washing your hands often with soap and water

You will need to have follow-up visits with your provider during and after chemotherapy. Blood tests and imaging tests, such as x-rays, MRI, CT, or PET scans will be done to:

Monitor how well the chemotherapy is working

Watch for damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, blood, and other parts of the body.

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