Hair Loss in Children With Cancer
For many children with cancer, hair loss can be important and traumatic -- yet
for others, especially very young children, it can be relatively
For teenagers with cancer, hair
loss can be devastating, and you will need to do everything you can to help
your teen find a satisfactory way to cope with this problem. Your child will
need to know if hair loss is likely to occur because of his or her treatment,
and you will need to make plans to cope with this in ways that make your child
most comfortable. The good news is that there are a number of options your
child can consider when it comes to covering his or her head.
Not all chemotherapy medications cause the loss or
thinning of hair, so first ask the health care team about the recommended
treatment and whether hair loss is expected. Some chemotherapy drugs will cause
hair loss because they are made to kill fast-growing cancer cells. Certain
normal cells, like hair cells, are also fast-growing; chemotherapy affects
these cells, too.
For almost everyone with cancer, hair begins to grow back several months
after chemotherapy ends. While the hair may initially be of a different texture
and even a somewhat different color than your child's original hair, this
difference is usually temporary
If your child must have radiation to the head, hair will probably fall out
in the area that is treated. In many cases, hair may not grow back here. Talk
with your health care team for more information and what is likely to happen in
your child's case.
Hair loss usually begins several weeks after the first or second
chemotherapy treatment, although this varies from individual to individual.
Your child's hair may begin thinning gradually before falling out faster and in
larger quantities. If your child has radiation, hair loss occurs only when the
treatment is concentrated on the scalp itself.
How to Prepare for Hair Loss
Once you and your child know that hair loss is expected with cancer
treatment, you can plan ahead.
Have your child's picture taken with his or her hair as it is usually worn,
so if your child wants a wig, the hair stylist will have a picture to help
shape the wig. Also, keep a snippet of your child's hair, to help match color
- Have your child get his or her hair cut short. Once the hair is short and
your child thinks she or he may want to cover the hair once it begins falling
out, experiment with different hats (and scarves, for girls) to see which
please your child. Feeling good about appearance is very important to most
children undergoing cancer treatment, so take the time needed with this step to
make this process as enjoyable and relaxing as possible.