why do people with cancer have no hair
Hair loss occurs because chemotherapy targets all rapidly dividing cells healthy cells as well as cancer cells. Hair follicles, the structures in the skin filled with tiny blood vessels that make hair, are some of the fastest-growing cells in the body. If you're not in cancer treatment, your hair follicles divide every 23 to 72 hours. But as the chemo does its work against cancer cells, it also destroys hair cells. Within a few weeks of starting chemo, you may lose some or all of your hair. If you are having, your hair loss may be gradual or dramatic: clumps in your hairbrush, handfuls in the tub drain or on your pillow. Whichever way it happens, it's startling and depressing, and you'll need a lot of support during this time. Some chemotherapy drugs affect only the hair on your head. Others cause the loss of eyebrows and eyelashes, pubic hair, and hair on your legs, arms, or underarms.
The extent of hair loss depends on which drugs or other treatments are used, and for how long. The
all produce different reactions. The timing of your treatments will also affect hair loss. Some types of chemotherapy are given weekly and in small doses, and this minimizes hair loss. Other treatments are scheduled every three to four weeks in higher doses, and may be more likely to cause more hair loss. Adriamycin (the A in CAF chemo treatment) causes complete hair loss on the head, usually during the first few weeks of treatment. Some women also lose eyelashes and eyebrows. Methotrexate (the M in CMF chemo treatment) thins hair in some people but not others. And it's rare to have complete hair loss from methotrexate. Cytoxan and 5-fluorouracil cause minimal hair loss in most women, but some may lose a great deal.
Taxol usually causes complete hair loss, including head, brows, lashes, pubic area, legs, and arms. Other types of breast cancer treatments may also cause hair loss. For example, Radiation only causes hair loss on the particular part of the body treated. If radiation is used to treat the breast, there is no hair loss on your head. But there might be loss of hair around the nipple, for women who have hair in that location. Radiation to the brain, used to treat metastatic cancer in the brain, usually causes complete hair loss on the head. Tamoxifen may cause some thinning of your hair, but not baldness. No matter how forewarned you are and how ready you think you are, it's always a terrible shock when your hair falls out. If you find the thought of losing your hair very upsetting, your doctor may be able to suggest a treatment that is less likely to cause hair loss.
Sometimes there is a choice of drugs you can have. Your doctor will want to give you the treatment that is most likely to work best in treating your cancer. But there may be other cancer drugs that work just as well. It is certainly worth discussing. Sometimes, the amount of hair that falls out can be reduced by using something called a cold cap. While you are wearing the cold cap, it lowers the temperature of your scalp. This reduces the blood flow in the scalp. So the amount of drug reaching the hair follicles on your head is lowered too. As smaller amounts of the cancer drugs get to the hair follicles, the hair is less likely to die off and fall out. Cold caps only block certain drugs and are not suitable for use in all types of cancer. You can't really have scalp cooling if there is too high a risk that cancer cells could be present in the scalp blood vessels.
This is because the cells in the scalp blood vessels might survive the treatment. It isnвt advisable if you are having leukaemia or lymphoma treatment. You canвt wear a cold cap if you are having continuous chemotherapy through a pump either, because you would have to wear the cold cap all the time, 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, even if you can have it, the cold cap may not work. You may still have hair thinning and some people still lose their hair completely. You can't tell whether it will work for you until you try it. If you have scalp cooling, you will have to spend longer at the hospital having your treatment. You have to wear the cold cap for a while before you have your drugs. The cold cap will make you feel cold all over, so it can be more comfortable to wear a jumper or ask for a blanket.
Hot drinks will help you feel warmer. You may find that the cold cap gives you a headache. Some doctors are not happy about their patients using scalp cooling for any type of cancer. They worry about the risk of cancer cells being left in the scalp. In theory, there is a risk that this could happen. But there has been very little research into the risk of cancer coming back after scalp cooling. So there is not enough evidence to know for sure whether scalp cooling is completely safe for most types of cancer. Some patients are not keen on scalp cooling for this reason, but others choose it. If you are interested in trying this way of keeping your hair, ask your specialist nurse if it is suitable for you. You can discuss the possible risks with your specialist if you are worried.
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