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Will My Chemo Drug Make Me Lose My Hair?

Posted by Emilienne Rebel on

Hair Loss is one of the more dreaded side effects of Chemotherapy for Cancer, but not all chemotherapy drugs have the same effect. Some medications almost always result in hair loss, whereas others cause minimal hair loss. below is a list of the particular drugs most likely to cause hair loss (Alopecia), but there are other factors that can affect hair loss as well, such as the dose of the drug, when its of administered, and the combination of drugs received.

Bold Beanies offers soft comfortable options to help patients (men, ladies and children) with a range of stretchy cotton hats and scarves. Some adults also opt to try and prevent hair loss by using a cold cap. I can't stand the cold, so this was not something I considered. 

Hair Loss From Chemotherapy    Hair loss is very common during chemotherapy for breast cancer as well as other cancers, though some drugs and methods of administration are more likely than others to disrupt hair follicles.

Whether or not you develop hair loss and the degree of your hair loss depends on a number of factors including:

  • Dose of chemotherapy
  • How often the chemotherapy is given
  • The route of administration
  • The drugs or combination of drugs you receive
  • Your individual makeup: Some people are more likely to lose hair than others, even with the same doses of the same drugs

Hair loss often begins around the time of your second chemotherapy infusion,(this is what happened to me, I had shaved my head in preparation) though this varies widely. It may start slowly, but increases rapidly around 1 month to 2 months after starting treatment. Some people do not lose all of their hair until they have nearly completed chemotherapy. Hair re-growth typically begins within 3 months of concluding chemotherapy. When your hair does grow back, many people find they have what's been coined 'Chemo Curls'. If your hair was straight prior to chemotherapy it will likely become straight again, but this process can take up to several years. In my case it started growing back after a few months and was much darker in colour but with some grey and my before curly hair was even curlier.

Which Chemotherapy Drugs Cause Hair Loss?

There are a number of chemotherapy drugs used to fight Breast Cancer—many of them used in combination. Common combinations such as Cytoxan and Adriamycin followed by Taxol are usually associated with hair loss.

Chemotherapy Drugs Which Often Cause Hair Loss:

  • Adriamycin (doxorubicin)
  • Cytoxan or Neosar (cyclophosphamide)
  • Taxol (paclitaxel)
  • Taxotere (docetaxel)
  • Cerubine (daunorubicin)
  • Ellence (epirubicin)
  • VePesid (etoposide)
  • Hexalen (altretamine)
  • Idamycin (idarubicin)
  • Ifex (ifosfamide)
  • Ixempra (exabepilone)
  • Camptosar (irinotecan)
  • Hycamtin (topotecan)
  • Navelbine (vinorelbine)
  • Ixempra (Ixabepilone)
  • Vincristine (vinorelbine)

Chemotherapy Drugs That Sometimes Cause Hair Loss:

  • Blenoxane (bleomycin)
  • Myleran or Busulfex (busulphan)
  • Cytosar-U (cytarabine)
  • 5-FU, Fluorouracil, Adrucil (5-fluorouracil)
  • Gemzar (gemcitabine)
  • Gleostine (lomustine)
  • Alkeran (melphalan)
  • Thioplex (thiootepa)
  • Velban (vinblastine)
  • Oncovin (vincristine)

Chemotherapy Drugs That Rarely Cause Hair Loss:

Some chemotherapy drugs result in only minimal hair loss, though these are often combined with drugs that cause more hair loss.

  • Paraplatin (carboplatin)
  • Xeloda (capecitabine)
  • Gliadel (carmustine)
  • Platinol (cisplatin)
  • Fludara or Oforta (vludarabine)
  • Trexall, Otrexup, Rasuvo (methotrexate)
  • Mutamicin (mitomycin C)
  • Novantrone (mitroxantrone)
  • Procarbazine (sold by generic name in US)
  • Purinethol (6-mercaptopurine)
  • Zanosar (streptozotocin)

The newer targeted therapies for cancer don't usually cause total hair loss like chemotherapy drugs, but can result in changes such as thinning of the hair and dryness, as well as changes in texture similar to the chemo curls noted above. Please see my separate blog post about targeted and hormonal therapies (inc Tamoxifen) for further information.

Permanent vs Temporary Hair Loss    Unlike hair loss related to radiation therapy, the loss of hair which occurs with chemotherapy is most often temporary. That said, there have been a few cases of permanent hair loss reported on some chemotherapy drugs. I have read online that the combination of FEC (fluorouracil/epirubicin/cyclophosphamide) with docetaxel has been reported to result in permanent and severe hair loss for some people who have had this regimen for breast cancer treatment. 

Handling Hair Loss From Chemotherapy    It can be very emotional coping with the hair loss you experience during chemotherapy and remains one of the most feared side effects. Sometimes its the 'little' things that get to you the most!

It's important to keep in mind that hair loss may occur all over your body. This includes eyelashes, eyebrows, pubic hair, and more. While women may appreciate not having to shave their legs (and men, their faces), it actually makes you realise what an important function our eyelashes and nose hair have. My eyes were often watering and my nose running.

Many people, including myself experience chemotherapy hair loss alopecia as a temporary side effect and it grows back better and more luscious than before!

Please be aware this post is for information only and I am NOT a medical professional. Please ALWAYS talk to your nurse or doctor dealing with your particular circumstance. I'm happy to answer any questions relating to my own experience with Breast Cancer (stage 3 advanced), surgeries, chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments and my hair loss. My hair loss ultimately led me to creating my range of silky soft stylish headwear for younger people going through cancer.

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