My experiences with Hair loss during chemo treatments - It's not uncommon!

LorettaMarshall Member Posts: 662 Member

Hello my friends:

As you might note, both my husband and I have played “role reversals”.  First he was diagnosed in 2002 with Esophageal Cancer, Stage III.  Suddenly I became a caregiver.  Stats are dismal and my husband is truly a “miracle.”  April is “Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month” here in Virginia.  Our Governor’s proclamation reads thus:    “…WHEREAS, the American Cancer Society estimate that in 2016 more than 16,500 new esophageal cancer cases will be diagnosed nationally, and more than 15,500 deaths will be caused by esophageal cancer in the United States alone…”, you can see that this is equally as devastating as Ovarian cancer stats.   Sadly through these many years MOST of our EC friends died.   And in both the case of Esophageal Cancer and Ovarian cancer, there are “no early warning” tests to detect the presence of either type of cancer.

Then in November of 2012, I was diagnosed with Peritoneal Carcinomatosis, then 3 weeks later a Second Opinion at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center with Ovarian cancer as well.  So then our roles reversed.  He is now a fantastic caregiver to me. (I am sorry that some of our sisters here struggle with having no close caregiver, thus an additional problem to cope with.)   And so we both know what it’s like to be a caregiver as well as a cancer patient.  In that regard, we have both had chemotherapy treatments and thus far are survivors.

Recently an EC patient wrote my husband to ask about hair loss.  My husband had Carboplatin & 5-FU.  He didn’t lose his hair.  My chemo was Carbo & Taxol and I began to lose my hair 2 weeks after the first treatment.  (I have had 2 separate sessions of chemo and lost all my hair both times.) The first time round, my hair came in “curly”.  Currently, my hair has grown back to the point that it looks like I have a crewcut.  It is sticking straight up and is about 1 and ½ inches long.  That’s better than absolutely bald though. It’s also “white” and when you get to be 77, I consider it a badge of honor.  Many of us have dealt with enough tragedies to make our hair “stand on end” present diagnosis included!  Then again we do thank God that we’re alive and from that perspective after the initial shock, on a scale of 1 to 10, dealing with being bald is no biggie for me. 

And on a totally unrelated thought, wonder who coined  the word “permanents” for our hair when one rarely last 6 months?

Some chemo cocktails predictably cause a high percentage of hair loss.  The “ChemoCare.Com” website is excellent for looking up the details of all types of chemo.  Probabilities percentage wise for side effects are listed.  So I refer to that site often.  It’s okay to wait and see how the chemo affects you, but if you’re like I was, by Week 2 the hair was coming out in the hairbrush in big amounts.  So by the 3rd week, you will probably know for certain how your hair is going to respond to the treatments.  It may not affect you but it may “thin out or “fall out!”

Although I know that loss of hair can be “demoralizing”, you must remember that the hair will grow back in time, but we hope the cancer will not.  Both Carboplatin and Taxol can result in hair loss.  And, my oh my, wouldn’t it be wonderful if while going through chemotherapy, our only side effect was hair loss?  In Sept. of 2015, have just completed my second series of Carboplatin and Taxol.  Each time my hair began to “turn loose” (fall out) within two weeks of treatment.  So it became so thin I just went to the beauty salon and had my head shaved since I had already shopped for wigs and hairpieces the first time around.  Granted the second time around, the shock is not as great.  Yes it is a bit demoralizing from the “beauty standpoint”, but the prospect that the chemo will kill the cancer cells, is by far the greater benefit.  Actually, some days I rarely think about my cancer, until I look in the mirror and see that I don’t have much hair. 

Not only did I lose the hair on top of my head, it took the eyebrows and eyelashes as well.  One good thing—I didn’t have to worry about shaving my legs.  Come to think of it, wouldn’t you hate to have to shave your face every day?  That brings up one more problem though.  When the hair starts to come back, ironically I start to see “facial fuzz” and long “wild” hairs on my chin and around my lips.  Thankfully, most of them are white, but some of them are black!  That’s not a pretty site.  So far I just clip them as close as I can with scissors. My eye sight is not what it used to be so I use a 10X magnifying make-up mirror.  That way I don’t put lipstick where eye shadow’s supposed to be!  J

These are the “tradeoffs” to living longer.  Do I want to look a bit worse for wear on the “outside,” while I get better on the inside—you bet!  I think you will adjust to the hair loss more quickly when you think of the good that the chemo will be doing to kill the cancer.  Furthermore, there are hair pieces, wigs, turbans, etc. that you can wear that can make you look normal.  If you’re interested in choosing something that matches your hair, if and when it begins to fall out, save a larger swatch of your hair, and then you can “match” it to the hair colors in this catalog.  My nurse gave me a copy.  If your oncology office doesn’t have any, you may order a free catalog on the web.  I’ve been totally satisfied with everything I’ve purchased.  And no, I don’t have any affiliation with the company.  Therein will be instructions on how to measure your head in order to get the right size.  So here is that address.


I have one of these headband hairpieces that I wear under my turbans and people never know it isn’t real.


I purchased several of these turbans in different colors to match my clothes.  I have used my “fake bangs” underneath my turban most of the time.   I feel like myself when I go out in public.  People think it’s my real hair until I tell them.  So for the best look, like I have said before, if your hair starts to fall out, I found “solace” in these wigs, bangs and hairpieces.  I think you will be very happy.  J

One last thing, depending on your insurance company, your doctor may write a prescription for a wig, and it may be covered by insurance.  (There may be a local wig shoppe that would offer cancer patients one for free as well.)  However, my insurance didn’t pay for it.  I found the wigs in this catalog were far more reasonably priced than the one I purchased at a local wig shoppe.  Returns can be made if the hairpiece hasn’t been worn, and it is returned promptly. 

And ladies, considering the current world chaos, aren’t we still happy to have a head, while all about us others are “losing theirs?”  YES we are!  So let’s just hold our head high as we move on!



Below are helpful web links from that will inform you as to the side effects of these two chemo drugs most often prescribed initially for Ovarian Cancer patients—Carboplatin and Taxol.    


Chemotherapy Drugs and Drugs often used During Chemotherapy Home Page


Web link for how Carboplatin is administered and its accompanying side effects


  “…What is hair loss and how is chemotherapy related?

    • Believe it or not, hair loss (alopecia) due to chemotherapy is one of the most distressing side effects of chemo treatments.  
    • Hair loss happens because the chemotherapy affects all cells in the body, not just the cancer cells.  The lining of the mouth, stomach, and the hair follicles are especially sensitive because those cells multiply rapidly just like the cancer cells. The difference is that the normal cells will repair themselves, making these side effects temporary. 
    • Hair loss does not occur with all chemotherapy.  Whether or not your hair remains as it is, thins or falls out, depends on the drugs and dosages.  
    • Hair loss may occur as early as the second or third week after the first cycle of chemotherapy, although it may not happen until after the second cycle of chemotherapy.  
    • Hair loss can be sudden or slow.  
    • You may lose all of your hair or just some of it.  
    • Often it comes out in clumps rather than an even pattern.  
    • It is common for hair loss to include hair that grows anywhere including eyelashes, eyebrows, and even pubic hair.
    • In almost all cases of chemotherapy-induced hair loss, your hair will resume growth after treatments.  
  • It may take from three to six months after therapy is completed or it may start growing back while you are still receiving chemotherapy.  Be prepared for your "new" hair to possibly have a slightly different color, texture, or curl.

Can you prevent hair loss during chemo treatments?

Through the years, attempts have been made to reduce hair loss by using tight bands or ice caps.  While these techniques may reduce hair loss by reducing blood flow to the scalp and limiting chemotherapy exposure to hair follicles, there is a theoretical concern that this could reduce the effectiveness of treatment in that area. 

What can be done to manage hair loss due to chemotherapy?

Management of hair loss focuses on your own comfort, or discomfort with baldness and on keeping your head warm if you live in a cool climate, as well as protection from the sun.  The following are options to consider, the best option is the one that is most comfortable for you:

Short hair - Cut your hair short if you are expecting hair loss during chemotherapy.  Since hair often does not fall out evenly, some find losing short hair is less distressing.  Some people shave their heads once the hair begins to fall out.

Wigs - If you are interested in purchasing a wig, the best time to do this is before you lose any hair.  This helps the stylist create the best match.  Many insurance companies will pay for a wig, so be sure you have it written as a prescription from your doctor (usually written as "cranial prosthesis").  There are wig stylists who specialize in wigs for alopecia (hair loss).  Check your yellow pages or ask at the doctor's office.

Caps and Scarves - Some people find that the easiest, and most comfortable options are caps and scarves.  These range from those you may already own to custom items made expressly for people who are undergoing chemotherapy.

You might check with your local chapter of the American Cancer Society.  They sponsor a program called "Look Good, Feel Better."  This program addresses ways to tie scarves and ways to make yourself look and feel better while experiencing hair loss during and after chemotherapy…”


TAXOL - “…Side Effects of Paclitaxel:

Important things to remember about the side effects of Paclitaxel include:

    • Most people do not experience all of the side effects listed.
    • Side effects are often predictable in terms of their onset and duration.
    • Side effects are almost always reversible and will go away after treatment is complete.
    • There are many options to help minimize or prevent side effects.
    • There is no relationship between the presence or severity of side effects and the effectiveness of the medication.
  • The side effects of Paclitaxel and their severity vary depending on how much of the drug is given, and/or the schedule in which it is given.

The following side effects are common (occurring in greater than 30%) for patients taking Paclitaxel:

    • Low blood counts. Your white and red blood cells and platelets may temporarily decrease. This can put you at increased risk for infection, anemia and/or bleeding.
    • Arthralgias and myalgias, pain in the joints and muscles. (see pain) Usually temporary occurring 2 to 3 days after Paclitaxel, and resolve within a few days.

Hypersensitivity reaction. Fever, facial flushing, chills, shortness of breath, or hives after Paclitaxel is given (see allergic reaction). The majority of these reactions occur within the first 10 minutes of an infusion. Notify your healthcare provider immediately (premedication regimen has significantly decreased the incidence of this reaction)…”


Same information relative to hair loss as is found in the Carboplatin link.

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