Prostate Cancer Treatment and Hair Loss

Medically Reviewed by Nazia Q Bandukwala, DO on May 30, 2023
4 min read

When you have certain treatments for prostate cancer, there’s a chance you could lose the hair on your head and body. It’s one of many side effects that chemotherapy or radiation can bring. The hair usually grows back after you finish treatment, but it may take time.

Chemotherapy drugs that kill cancer cells can also damage hair follicles, which causes your hair to fall out. Some of these medications may thin the hair on your scalp or make it all fall out. Others can cause hair loss on body parts like:

  • The genitals
  • Arms
  • Legs
  • Around the eyes

Radiation can cause you to lose hair on the part of your body that gets treatment. Your prostate gland is just below your bladder and above the base of your penis, so radiation there might lead to hair loss in your pubic area.

Not everyone who has chemo or radiation loses hair. Before you start, ask your doctor how likely it is that you’ll have this side effect and whether it might happen slowly or quickly.

Hair loss usually starts 1 to 3 weeks after you begin treatment. You may notice it more within 1 to 2 months.

How much hair you lose depends on things like:

  • The type of chemo or radiation you have
  • The dose
  • In the case of chemo, how you get it (through a needle in your vein or in pills that you swallow)

People are often most concerned about losing hair from their scalp because of chemo. Try these tips to prepare:

Get a short haircut or a shave. Think about cropping your hair short or shaving it off with an electric razor before you start noticing hair loss. It might be less stressful than finding clumps of hair on your pillow or in the shower drain.

Thinking about a wig? Start shopping before you start treatment. You’ll have more time and energy, and you may have an easier time finding a style and color that’s similar to your current hair. Also find out whether your health insurance plan will pay some or all of the cost. It might be covered if your doctor writes a prescription for a “cranial prosthesis.”

Ask about a cooling cap. This is a device that you wear while you have chemo. It might lower your odds of losing hair. Researchers are still looking into how safe and effective it is, so talk to your doctor about whether it may be right for you. Cooling caps can have side effects like headaches, scalp pain, and discomfort in your neck and shoulders.

Talk to your loved ones. If your doctor says you’re likely to have hair loss, think about letting close friends and family members know. That way, you can give each other support if you need it.

These tips can help you protect your head, minimize hair loss, and manage stress:

Shield your scalp. Put broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF on any bald spots. On cold days, protect your scalp from dry air with a hat or scarf.

Groom gently. Your scalp might be extra sensitive to combing, bushing, and washing. Consider using a brush with soft bristles or a wide-toothed comb. Don’t brush too much or pull your hair back in tight styles like braids or ponytails. Skip blow dryers, rollers, and curling or flat irons, too. Use a mild shampoo when you wash your hair, and then pat dry. Try to wash your hair less often than you used to.

Wear a hair net in bed. If you decide not to cut or shave your hair off, the net can keep it from falling out in clumps while you sleep. A satin pillowcase may help, too.

Get support if you need it. Hair is very personal to many people. Don’t bottle your feelings up. Confide in close friends or loved ones. You can also talk with a cancer support group. It’s a good way to meet people who’ve also lost hair during treatment and who understand what you’re going through.

The hair on your head will most likely start growing back 2 to 3 months after you finish chemo. It might be curlier, straighter, or a different color than it was before. Over time, its original texture and shade may return. Don’t perm or dye it for a few months because it may be more breakable when it starts to grow back.

Hair in your pubic area tends to regrow about a month after you finish radiation for prostate cancer. This hair may also look different than it did before treatment. For some men, it doesn’t grow back.