Some cancer treatments may cause hair loss. Your doctor will be able to talk to you about the likelihood of your hair falling out. Some people may note a change in the way their hair grows. Others may find that their hair falls out completely.

Different treatments that will have a different effect on your hair:

  • Chemotherapy may cause your hair to fall out. This generally happens in the first 2-3 weeks after the treatment begins. Some types of chemotherapy medication may cause hair loss in other parts of the body, such as facial or pubic hair. Not all types of chemotherapy medication cause hair loss. In general, hair comes back after the treatment has been completed.
  • Radiotherapy may make your hair fall out, but only in the treated area. If you receive radiotherapy in your head, it is likely you will lose the hair on your scalp. Hair does not always come back following radiotherapy. Prior to the treatment, your doctor will discuss the probability of hair loss with you.
  • Other cancer treatments, such as hormone therapy or biologic therapy, may cause changes in your hair.


Many people feel their hair to be part of their identity. It may be very discomforting to have your hair fall out during cancer treatment.

Family members and friends may notice the changes in the patient's hair. This may make the patient feel vulnerable and less confident. If hair has a special significance in your culture, this may be more difficult to deal with.

However, as your hair falls out, you may find it is not as bad as you had expected.

Most people find they can talk to their family and friends about their hair loss. For others it is easier to talk with people they don't know.

Patients who have difficulty drawing people's attention away from their hair loss may wish to try the following:

  • wear bright-colored clothing
  • wear makeup
  • wear jewelery

As you spend more time with people, you will fear more secure.


There are things you can do to help manage your hair loss or changes to your skin.

If your hair is going to fall out during your treatment, there are ways to prepare for it. You may wish to cut it short over a number of stages so people can get used to you with shorter hair. Some people shave their head completely.

There are ways to care for your skin both during and after treatment:

  • Use products meant for soft hair.
  • Consult with your radiotherapy team to see whether you can apply products to the affected area.
  • Brush your hair softly and wear a hair net at night.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Avoid blow-dryers, hair straighteners, or curling irons.
  • Do not use hair dyes or perms.
  • Scalp massages are not recommended.

There are ways to care for your skin both during and after treatment:

  • Use soft moisturizing cream that is fragrance-free. Check with your radiotherapy team before using any products.
  • Use pillows made with natural fibers.
  • Protect your head from the sun.
  • Avoid deodorant with fragrance.


Scalp cooling can reduce hair loss caused by chemotherapy. It works by cooling and contracting the blood vessels to the scalp, which reduces the amount of chemotherapy drugs carried to the hair follicles. Scalp cooling doesn’t work with all chemotherapy drugs.

You will need to keep your head cold before, during, and after treatment. There are two methods of scalp cooling:

  • A ‘cold cap’, which is filled with a chilled gel.
  • A refrigerated cooling system, which pumps liquid coolant through a cap.

Scalp cooling is not suitable in the following circumstances:

  • If you have a hematological cancer such as myeloma, leukemia, or lymphoma.
  • If you are receiving high doses of chemotherapy.
  • If you are receiving continuous chemotherapy over several days.
  • If your liver is not functioning properly.
  • If you have severe migraines.
  • If you did not use scalp cooling during the first course of chemotherapy.

Scalp cooling can reduce hair loss, but your hair may thin or you may still lose it completely. Some doctors have concerns about scalp cooling as it may prevent uncommon cancer cells near the scalp from being killed.

Talk to your doctor about whether scalp cooling is right for you.