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Hair Loss

Hair loss (Alopecia) is one of the most visible side effects of chemotherapy and is often one of the most upsetting. It is a common side effect of chemotherapy, but not all chemotherapy medications cause hair loss. Be sure to ask your healthcare team if the medications that you are taking commonly cause hair loss.

If you experience hair loss, your hair may become thinner gradually or it may fall out all at once. Hair loss may happen to all parts of the body, including the head, face, arms and legs, underarms and pubic area. You may also notice that your scalp is tender.

Hair loss does not always happen right away. Hair usually starts to fall out within the first cycle of treatment around week 3. The hair almost always grows back. It may take several months or it can even start to grow back while you are on treatment. When it does come back, you may notice that it has a slightly different texture, colour or curl.

Keep in mind that hair loss is one side effect that you can plan for. Before and during treatment, there are things you can do to make this temporary effect less upsetting.

What you can do

  • Cut your hair short prior to chemotherapy, so it becomes less noticeable later.
  • Treat you hair and scalp gently. Avoid using hairsprays, perms, and dyes.
  • Purchase scarves, hats, or a turban.
  • Purchase a wig prior to your treatment that matches your hair as much as possible. This cost is covered by many insurance plans.
  • Ask your health care team about the "Look Good ... Feel Better" program, a national non-profit program committed to helping women manage the appearance-related effects of cancer and its treatment. It is available at Stronach Regional Cancer Centre.


Losing your hair can be hard to accept. Experiencing hair loss as a result of cancer treatment can leave you feeling angry and depressed. However, try to keep in mind that it is a temporary side effect. Sometimes sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone who has had a similar experience can help.

Southlake Regional Health Centre
596 Davis Drive, Newmarket, Ontario   L3Y 2P9
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