Cancer therapy and coping with hair loss

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A breast cancer diagnosis can catch a person off-guard and drum up all types of feelings. Many people diagnosed with cancer become anxious about treatment and any potential side effects it may produce.
Hair loss is one side effect widely associated with cancer treatment, though not all cancer patients will lose their hair. For example, Breastcancer.org notes that patients undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer will not lose the hair on their heads because radiation is a localized treatment. Hair loss in the area of treatment, such as under the arms or on the breast itself, may occur. But hair loss on other areas of the body is more likely to occur as a result of chemotherapy treatment, as chemotherapy affects the entire body. Chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cells. Hair follicles are some of the fastest-growing cells in the body and chemotherapy targets fast-growing cancer cells.
Various studies show that many women fear losing their hair more than losing a breast, as breast loss can be concealed more easily than hair loss. However, there are ways to cope with hair loss, particularly through the use of wigs and head coverings.
• Ask your doctor to write a prescription for a wig, which may be covered by your health insurance. If you are covered, that can help to offset the cost of the wig.
• Start shopping for a wig early on — even before hair loss occurs. As you get further along into treatment, you may feel fatigued and not up to shopping for wigs.
• Choose a color that is similar to your natural hair color. This will help the wig look more natural.
• If possible, purchase more than one wig so you have a backup or another style choice.
• Visit a wig store at least once for a proper fitting so you will know what to look for. Wigs come in different cap sizes. Once you know your size, you can consider shopping for wigs online.
• Human hair wigs are more expensive, but they can be more durable than synthetic wigs and offer more styling choices. However, synthetic wigs can usually be worn out of the box and require less daily styling.
• Head wraps and hats are an alternative when you need a break from wearing a wig. Choose a variety of options so you can coordinate with your clothing.
Losing hair due to cancer treatment is seldom easy. Being prepared for the transition by having a quality wig and comfortable head wraps at the ready can make dealing with hair loss easier.

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