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why do patients lose their hair when on chemotherapy

You might not think about how important your hair is until you face losing it. And if you have cancer and are about to undergo chemotherapy, the chance of hair loss is very real. Both men and women report hair loss as one of the side effects they fear most after being diagnosed with cancer. For many, hair loss is a symbol to the world that you have cancer. If you aren't comfortable sharing this information with others, you may fear this side effect more than other chemotherapy complications. Talking to your cancer care team about your concerns and preparing for the possibility of hair loss may help you cope with this difficult side effect of treatment. Why does it occur? Chemotherapy drugs are powerful medications that attack rapidly growing cancer cells. Unfortunately, these drugs also attack other rapidly growing cells in your body including those in your hair roots. Chemotherapy may cause hair loss all over your body not just on your scalp. Sometimes your 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. Talk to your doctor or nurse about the medication you'll be taking.


They can tell you what to expect. Fortunately, most of the time hair loss from chemotherapy is temporary. You can expect to regrow your hair three to six months after your treatment ends, though your hair may temporarily be a different shade or texture. What should you expect? 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. Your scalp may feel tender. Your hair loss will continue throughout your treatment and up to a few weeks afterward. Whether your hair thins or you become completely bald will depend on your treatment. People with cancer report hair loss as a distressing side effect of treatment. Each time you catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror, your changed appearance is a reminder of your illness and everything you've experienced since your diagnosis. When will your hair grow back? It may take several weeks after treatment for your hair to recover and begin growing again. When your hair starts to grow back, it will probably be slightly different from the hair you lost.


But the difference is usually temporary. Your new hair might have a different texture or color. It might be curlier than it was before, or it could be gray until the cells that control the pigment in your hair begin functioning again. Feb. 24, 2018
Hair loss is a frequent side effect of cancer treatment, and for many patients, it becomes a real worry. agents actively target and kill rapidly growing cells, such as those in a. But similar to a tumor, the hair follicle is a highly active structure with a host of cells that frequently divide to produce the growing hair. Because many chemotherapy drugs are designed to effectively kill all rapidly dividing cells, hair is the unfortunate bystander that takes the fall along with the cancer cells. While some find the thought of losing their hair so distressing that they refuse chemotherapy, most people will see their locks grow back after the treatment has finished. The level of, or chemotherapy-induced alopecia (CIA), depends on the type of, the specific drug, and the dose and pattern of the treatment. Many patients experience the of CIA within 1 to 2 weeks of starting their treatment. Areas that experience high friction during sleep, such as the top of the head and the sides above the ears, are often the first to see hair loss.


Yet the precise pattern depends on the individual's hair. Those hairs that are actively growing will be most affected, but because growing hair follicles can be arranged in patches or evenly distributed all over the scalp, it is unfortunately impossible to predict the pattern of hair loss for any given individual. By 3 months, hair loss is often complete. Hair regrowth after chemotherapy usually starts within 1 to 3 months after the therapy has finished. Up to of patients report a change in hair color or structure during the first wave of hair regrowth, with many experiencing curlier hair. However, these changes are mostly temporary, and hair returns to normal eventually. Hair has important functions in culture and communication, and so CIA is consistently ranked top of the list of traumatic events for many patients that undergo chemotherapy. Some patients even consider refusing chemotherapy as a result of the impending threat of CIA. Treatments for CIA are, at best, experimental. Cooling the scalp with ice packs or special caps was first introduced in the 1970s. The theory underlying this treatment is that cooling will narrow the blood vessels leading to the hair follicles.


Some have reported success rates of up to 50 percent with this technique, but there is clearly a need for more effective therapies. Very little is known about how chemotherapy drugs cause CIA. Most information stems from studies using mouse models. Here, research has shown that programmed cell suicide, or, is the most likely cause of cell death in the hair follicle, causing the hair to fall out. in the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago, IL, used genome-wide association studies to compare the genetic signature of patients who had experienced CIA with that of those who had not. They found several candidate genes that might be implicated in the loss of functional hair follicles. One of these, CACNB4, is part of a channel that plays an important role in cell growth and apoptosis. Another gene, BCL9, was active in a subset of CIA patients and is known to play a role in hair follicle development. Armed with this knowledge, scientists are continuing their quest to develop effective inhibitors of chemotherapy-induced hair loss, hoping to reduce the burden that this unwanted side effect has on cancer patients.

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