What You Need to Know About Hair Loss & Cancer

Some of the most difficult side effects of cancer treatments might not cause physical pain. For some cancer patients, hair loss may be one of the most distressing side effects of cancer treatment.

Hair loss, or alopecia, may make you feel vulnerable, self-conscious and exposed as a “cancer patient.” It is also a visible sign that your life has changed, which may trigger feelings of depression. You might be presented questions from others that you aren’t ready to deal with yet.

In most cases it is not the cancer itself causing the hair loss, but the treatments like chemotherapy or radiation. Hair usually begins falling out two to four weeks after you start treatment. It could fall out very quickly in clumps or gradually. You’ll likely notice accumulations of loose hair on your pillow, in your hairbrush or comb, or in your sink or shower drain. Hair loss may continue throughout treatment and up to a few weeks afterward.

Most hair loss is temporary, and hair will grow back after the cancer treatment ends. Hair generally grows back within three months after chemotherapy ends and three to six months after radiation ends. Sometimes hair re-growth begins even before therapy is complete. And, it’s common for hair to grow back a slightly different color and texture at first.