Hair loss is common when having chemotherapy. You may lose the hair on your head and anywhere else on your body. Some people lose all their hair and others have patchy hair loss or thinning.
Radiotherapy can also cause hair loss, but only in the area being treated.
Hair loss is one of the most well known side effects of cancer treatment, and can be distressing. Being prepared can help.
Know what to expect
Not all cancer treatments cause hair loss. Ask your doctor if you are likely to lose your hair.
If you do have hair loss, it is usually temporary. Your hair will usually start growing back when your treatment is finished.
Planning for hair loss
You might want to tell your family and friends that you may lose your hair.
It can help to get your hair cut shorter before it starts to fall out.
If you want a wig to match your normal hair, it is best to get one before you lose your hair.
Know who to contact if you have a problem
Ask your doctor or nurse:
- when you should call for help or advice
- who you should contact
- how to contact them (including at night or weekends).
Keep this information where you can easily find it.
Practical concerns with hair loss
You may notice your head feels more sensitive or itchy before your hair falls out. Use a mild shampoo like those for babies. Avoid using hair dyes, perms, hair dryers and straighteners.
If your hair falls out moisturise your scalp with sorbolene. Protect your scalp from the sun with sunscreen and hats. If it is cold wear a beanie or cap to keep your head warm.
Emotional concerns with hair loss
Losing your hair can make you feel upset, distressed, angry or depressed. This is normal. Hair loss is a reminder that you have cancer and it can be noticeable to others.
It may help to talk to someone who has had hair loss. You can call the Cancer Council for information and support. You may also want to go to a free Look Good Feel Better workshop.