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Hair Loss due to cancer treatment

Posted by Brady Bunch on

Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to

In this blog I discuss the temporary hair loss caused by medication used to treat cancer
(chemotherapy or radiation). The scientific name for this type of hair loss is anagen effluvium and the hair loss is usually sudden, and occurs between 1 to 3 weeks after the start of cancer treatment. Often the hair falls out in large clumps and in many cases it occurs overnight. Some doctors recommend cutting the hair short in advance of the hair falling out.

It occurs because while cancer treatment drugs attack rapidly growly cancer cells, they also attack other rapidly growing cells including those in hair roots. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause hair loss all over your body (not just the scalp). Sometimes eyelash, eyebrow, armpit, pubic and other body hair also falls out. Some chemotherapy drugs are more likely than others to cause hair loss, and different doses can cause anything from a mere thinning to complete baldness.

Up to 90% of hair is sometimes affected. This hair grows back once treatment is finished but it can take three to ten months for hair to grow back after the cancer drugs are complete. Hair may not grow back as thickly as it was prior to treatment. On the other hand, some people find it grows back thicker and healthier than before treatment. Some people find that when it grows back, it is a different texture, for example curly hair growing back straight or the hair changes colour. Not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss so the doctor will advise in advance if it will occur. Some patients decide to wear wigs while their hair is lost and nowadays there is a great selection of very natural looking wigs. The cancer team in hospital or pharmacist can advise on where wigs are available.

Where to get wigs in Westmeath

I sometimes get asked where wigs are available locally for the likes of people with severe alopecia or undergoing chemotherapy. Joli Hairdressers (04493 95921) offer a good range of quality wigs, headwear and scarfs. They have staff trained in this area and a private fitting area. Joli are a HSE registered wig supplier meaning that the HSE will give you an allowance towards your wig if you have a medical card. Some health insurance plans cover part of the cost.

Some quick tips on Cancer Prevention and Re-occurrence

Seeing as I’m on the subject of cancer treatment, here are some cancer prevention tips. Evidence suggests that women with high aerobic fitness levels have a 55% lower chance of dying from breast cancer than their less-fit peers; there are similar statistics for other cancers in men and women so get active! Having two or more alcoholic drinks a day increases cancer risk by about 25%. Embrace a diet high in vegetables and fruit and low in sugared drinks, refined carbohydrates and fatty foods. Stop smoking, smoking is associated with increased risk of many types of cancer (but mainly lung and throat). Being overweight means increased risk of many cancers. Even losing a few pounds can reduce your risk significantly.

Disclaimer: Consult a healthcare professional before making any changes recommended

This article is shortened. For more detailed information, logon to or contact Whelehans at 044 93 34591 or and we will forward you a more detailed copy for free


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