Hair loss from chemotherapy or radiation happens when hair follicles are weakened by the treatment. This causes hair to fall out much more quickly than it normally would. This side effect can be a distressing but there are many resources to help individuals experiencing hair loss due to cancer treatment.
Build a Community of Support
Reach out to family and friends. Often people want to help, but don’t know how. Ask a friend or family member to accompany you to a wig fitting. Also, expressing how you feel to someone you trust can help you feel more in control.
Seek emotional support. Talking to others who have experienced hair loss, or to individuals who have professional experience in the matter, will help you during this difficult period. Individual counseling, face-to-face and online support groups, and patient-to-patient networks are available to help you cope emotionally. CancerCare provides free counseling and support groups led by professional oncology social workers.
Talk to your health care team. Writing down questions prior to appointments and bringing someone with you to take notes can help ensure that you are well-prepared and informed. Before starting treatment, ask your doctor the following questions:
- Is hair loss a possible side effect of my treatment?
- How can I protect my head when my hair falls out?
- When can I expect my hair to grow back?
- When should I consider getting a wig?
Hair Loss Resources
Having a wig is one way of taking control. Here are organizations that provide resources for individuals experience hair loss due to a cancer diagnosis:
CancerCare is the leading national organization providing free support services and information to help people manage the emotional, practical and financial challenges of cancer.
CancerCare’s Wig Clinic recognizes that appearance-related effects of cancer treatment can be difficult for many women. The Wig Clinic aims to empower women diagnosed with cancer to look and feel their best during treatment and beyond; to cope with dignity and confidence.
This is an opportunity for women diagnosed with any type of cancer who are receiving chemotherapy to receive a free wig. We provide new wigs in a variety of lengths, colors and styles. During the individual 30-minute fitting, women have the opportunity to try on different wigs with assistance from a wig fitter. An oncology social worker is also present to provide support. Basic wig care is discussed, although we do not have the capacity to cut or style wigs ourselves.
CancerCare’s New Jersey, Connecticut, and Long Island offices offer free wig fittings by appointment.
Locks of Love
Locks of Love provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under the age of 21 who are experiencing long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.
The Look Good Feel Better Program
The Look Good Feel Better program is designed to help people cope with the effects that cancer treatment can have on their appearance. Workshops include professional advice on how to deal with hair loss using wigs, scarves, hats, hairpieces, and other accessories.
Wigs for Kids
Wigs for Kids provides free wigs to children under the age of 18 who have lost their hair due to a medical condition.