There are a number of reasons why you can lose your hair. An underlying health issues, a genetic predisposition, stress or any combination of these can play a role. A common scenario where people lose hair occurs with chemotherapy treatment, such as that given for the treatment of breast cancer.
Dealing with cancer is a major struggle where even the treatments can possess adverse effects and can be hard to tolerate. Anagen Effluvium is a condition where patients experience hair loss due to an interruption in the phase of hair growth. This type of hair loss is most commonly caused by chemotherapy agents.
“Hair is constantly cycling through different phases,” explains Dr. Miriam Hanson, board certified dermatologist in Austin, Texas. “First is a growing phase where hair cells are dividing quickly producing hair. This is followed by a cessation phase, and finally a resting phase.” It is the interruption of these quickly dividing cells by chemotherapy drugs that causes hair loss in the growing or “anagen” phase. This results in the Anagen Effluvium seen in cancer patients undergoing treatment.
Side effects from chemotherapy are common, but the severity varies from one patient to another. Not all patients experience Anagen Effluvium, but if it happens, it can certainly be dramatic. “A patient can loose handfuls, large chunks, really the majority of their hair quite quickly during chemotherapy,” mentions Dr. Adam Mamelak, a board-certified Dermatologist at Sanova Dermatology.
Hair loss can also occur everywhere – from the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, even the hair in the underarms or genital areas.
“This type of hair loss tends to be temporary and the majority of patients will regrow their hair after their chemo treatments end,” Dr. Hanson says. An exceptionally high percentage of patients will regrow their normal healthy hair between 2-4 weeks after completing therapy.
“Patients are always happy to get their hair back,” says Dr. Hanson. “Although we have seen situations where hair that was originally straight regrows curly.” There have also been instances where patients’ hair will regrows with a different shade or color.
“Wigs, head scarfs and other head coverings are probably the most common things we recommend during treatment,” says Dr. Mamelak. “However, there are instances where a patient might need assistance with hair regrowth after experiencing Anagen Effluvium.” A number of dermatologic therapies are available for this purpose.
If you have any questions regarding your hair loss, or hair regrowth after chemotherapy, please contact us at Sanova Dermatology. Our dermatologists are here to help you with your skin and hair needs.