Protecting your green card A (Hair)Cut Above the RestDocument Transcript
Cancer Council Queensland
Cancer Support Services
The generosity of Queenslanders makes this service possible.
We are an independent, community-based charity and are not government funded
For information and support contact our Helpline on 13 11 20,
Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm
Cancer Council Queensland is a not-for-profit,
non-government organisation that provides information
and support free of charge for people with cancer, their
families and friends throughout Queensland. These services
are made possible through the generous donations of
Queenslanders and we thank them for their continued
support. If you would like to know more about the
information and support services provided by the Cancer
Council Queensland call the Cancer Council Helpline on
13 11 20 (toll free).
Introduction ............................................................. 2
Hair growth .............................................................. 3
Cancer treatment and side-effects ......................... 4
Your feelings ............................................................. 9
Coping with hair loss – some ideas ....................... 10
Taking care of yourself ......................................... 11
Especially for children ........................................... 14
Turbans ................................................................... 15
More information .................................................... 21
Introduction Hair growth
Growth of the hair takes place in the hair follicles or roots.
For most people, the diagnosis and treatment of
New hair cells form by division of cells in the follicle. The
cancer can be a stressful time. In particular, the
hair cells are joined together in long chains.
possible side-effects of treatments such as
chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be of The hair cells produce the protein keratin which
concern. Hair loss can be a side effect of chemotherapy accumulates inside the cells. The hair cells eventually
and radiation therapy and it is only natural to be die, leaving hardened keratin linked together to form
concerned about losing your hair. the hair. The new cells in the follicle push the dead
keratin cells ahead and so the hair grows.
The aim of this booklet is to provide some information
to help you understand hair loss. There are also ideas
Growth in the hair follicle follows a pattern or cycle.
to help you care for your hair, scalp and appearance
The cells divide and build the hair shaft for a period
and the follicle then rests.
This booklet is a starting point and may be helpful in
The growing cells of the hair follicle can be affected
deciding what questions to ask the doctor and nurses
by cancer treatment.
involved in your care. This booklet is not designed to
replace information from your treating doctor and
nurses. We encourage you to talk with your doctor and
nurses about your hair loss. hair
Cancer Council Queensland wishes to thank Cancer from skin
Council South Australia for permission to reproduce epidermis
the information contained in this booklet with some
For further information, please feel free to call the
Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20, Monday to Friday hair follicle
between 8am and 8pm.
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Cancer treatment and side-effects Before chemotherapy starts, ask your doctor if the drug/s are
likely to cause hair loss. Your doctor will be able to tell you if
your treatment is likely to cause your hair to fall out.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are valuable in
Can hair be lost from parts of my body other
treating many forms of cancer. These two treatments
than my head?
destroy cancer cells.
Hair can be lost from the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes,
Chemotherapy and hair loss armpits and pubic areas. In men, hair can also be lost
from the moustache, beard and chest area.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to reduce or stop the When will I start losing my hair?
growth of cancer cells. Hair loss may occur at any time during treatment but
is more likely to happen within the first few weeks of
Why does chemotherapy cause hair loss?
starting chemotherapy. Occasionally, hair loss can start
Chemotherapy drugs work by disturbing the growth and
within a few days.
division of cancer cells. These drugs can also cause
temporary damage to some healthy normal cells in the Hair loss may occur gradually or suddenly.
body. The healthy cells affected are those which are
Chemotherapy causes the hair to break off at the skin
rapidly dividing and growing in the body.
so the first thing you may be aware of is that you lose
Rapidly dividing and growing cells are found in the hair. hair when it is brushed, combed or washed. When you
This is why chemotherapy sometimes causes people wake in the morning, you may notice hair on your pillow
to lose their hair. Hair loss is also known as alopecia. and sheets.
Unlike cancer cells, the normal cells regrow when the
Later on in this booklet, we will give you some ideas about
full course of chemotherapy is completed. So, if you
looking after your hair and scalp during chemotherapy.
lose your hair because of chemotherapy, it will usually
grow back when your treatment is over.
I’m having chemotherapy… will my hair fall out?
Not all chemotherapy drugs affect the hair. Hair loss may
not occur or may be so slight that it is hardly noticeable
at all. Other people may experience partial or complete
hair loss. The amount of hair loss depends on the
drug or combination of drugs, the dose and your own
individual reaction to the drug/s.
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Radiation therapy and hair loss
Will my hair grow back?
Hair loss is temporary for most people receiving
What is radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy is the use of high energy x-rays to kill
Usually, when treatment is over, the hair will start to grow cancer cells, at the same time aiming to do as little harm
back and this may happen even before your treatment as possible to surrounding normal cells.
has been completed.
Why does radiation therapy cause hair loss?
The first hairs are usually very fine and they reappear Radiation therapy damages the hair follicles causing
within a month or six weeks of stopping treatment. Within them to break. Hair loss caused by radiation therapy
three to six months, you will probably have a full head of is different from chemotherapy. The main difference is
hair. that radiation therapy causes hair loss only in the area
of the body being treated. For example, hair loss to the
You may notice some changes in your hair when it grows
scalp will only occur when the head is included in the
back. For example, it may be a little more curly, thicker
radiation pathway, and if an armpit is being treated then
or finer than it was before. It may grow back a slightly
you may lose some hair in that armpit.
Radiation therapy planning
Before starting, radiation therapy marks are put on
Cancer Council Queensland has a booklet and your skin or on to a shell which is made especially for
video called ‘Understanding Chemotherapy’ the area to be treated. These marks help the radiation
available free of charge. They provide more therapist (the person who gives the radiation treatment)
detailed information about chemotherapy and are to direct the rays to precisely the right area and to
available by calling the Cancer Council Helpline position you accurately. If you have marks on your skin
on 13 11 20. then they must remain visible throughout treatment and
it is important not to wash them off. Before using any
lotions on your skin during your course of treatment,
you should check with your radiation therapist, doctor or
nurse to make sure they are suitable.
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Taking care of your scalp during radiation treatment
to the head
The skin on the scalp needs to be protected from irritation,
For many people, both women and men, adults and
such as harsh rubbing, perms, harsh shampoos and strong
children, hair is an important part of their appearance.
sunlight. Wearing a hat, scarf or a wig is recommended.
When washing the hair use a gentle shampoo, such as a Each person responds differently to finding out they will
baby shampoo, and pat the scalp dry with a soft towel. Avoid lose their hair. There is no right or wrong response. You
using hairsprays or other potential irritants on the scalp. may feel anxious about losing your hair and at
times even distressed. These reactions are quite common
Will my hair grow back?
After radiation therapy, your hair will usually grow back, but it
might not be as thick as before. The time it takes and the way Hair loss may have a great influence on body image. It
it grows back depends on the dose of radiation therapy you may have an impact on how you feel about yourself, and
have received and the length of treatment. There is no exact this in turn may have an impact on sexuality. Hair loss
time but on average, it takes six to 12 months after treatment together with fatigue and an increased dependence on
has finished for the hair to grow back. others, may impact on roles within a family.
Occasionally, after a large dose of radiation therapy, the Hair loss is also one obvious sign to others that you are a
hair may not recover completely and new growth can be ‘cancer patient’, which may impact on the way you feel.
rather patchy. You need to share feelings with family and friends and use
available resources to help you through this time.
Sometimes people do have permanent hair loss as a result
of radiation therapy. Your doctor will be able to discuss with There are many ways to help cope with hair loss. It is
you the possibility of permanent hair loss before you start important to do what feels most comfortable for you.
Cancer Council Queensland has a booklet and video Cancer Council Queensland has a booklet called
called ‘Understanding Radiation Therapy’ available ‘Understanding Emotions’ available free of charge that
free of charge. They provide more detailed information provides more detailed information about some of the
about radiation therapy and are available by calling the feelings people experience when they have cancer.
Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20. The booklet is available by calling the Cancer Council
Helpline on 13 11 20.
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Coping with hair loss – some ideas Taking care of yourself
Taking care of your hair and scalp during
Health professionals, hairdressers and people who have had
cancer treatment have shared some ideas and strategies
that can be helpful to deal with hair loss. Here are some
The best advice is simple - keep your hair and scalp
clean and be gentle with it.
• It can be helpful to plan ahead of time. Before you start
A few tips that you might like to use.
treatment, think about what you can do when the hair loss
• Use gentle hair products such as baby shampoos,
• Talking about your feelings can be a helpful way of dealing which do not cause dryness of the hair and scalp.
with the emotions experienced if you are going to lose
• Comb or brush your hair gently. Use a hairbrush with
your hair or have lost your hair. Depending on who you
soft bristles. This is also helpful if your scalp feels
feel comfortable with, talk to a close friend or relative, your
doctor or nurses or maybe someone who has already
experienced hair loss. You can also call the Cancer • Use a satin, polyester or cotton pillowcase. Nylon may
Council Helpline on 13 11 20. cause irritation.
• Some people may appear to feel awkward about your hair • Avoid using a hair dryer or rollers, as this will dry the
loss. You might find it easier if you can start talking about hair and make it more likely to break.
your hair loss first. Once they hear you talking about it,
• Avoid sleeping in hair rollers.
they will probably feel more at ease.
• Avoid plaiting or braiding your hair, as this pulls and
• Keep in touch with family and friends. Their support can be
stretches the hair.
very helpful while you are having treatment.
• Avoid harsh chemicals such as hair colouring, gel,
• Consider having your hair cut short before your treatment
mousse, hairspray and perming agents.
starts. Some people find it helpful to cut their hair in stages
so they have time to adjust to losing their hair. Long hair • If you have lost all your hair, you may find your scalp
can be heavy and may pull on your scalp, which may feel becomes flaky.This can be removed by gently rubbing
sensitive at this time. the scalp with moist cotton wool. A mild anti-dandruff
shampoo might help.
• Seeing your hair on the pillow can be upsetting. You may
wish to wear a hairnet or a turban tied around your head at • A gentle scalp massage can be invigorating and make
night to catch stray hairs.
you feel much better.
• If your hair loss is partial, talk to your hairdresser about
different styles to disguise thinning hair.
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• If you have lost hair under your armpits, avoid using Turbans are comfortable, especially in hot weather.
perfumed deodorants. Use a small amount of baby
Draw attention away from your hair by highlighting
powder instead, or a mild, unperfumed deodorant.
If you have any concerns, discuss these with your doctor.
• For women, a little extra make-up around the eyes,
Practical ways of caring for yourself cheekbones or lips will direct attention to your face;
• Experiment with new colours for eyes and lips;
Consult your hairdresser
A hairdresser who you know and trust can provide • Experiment with jewellery. Chains can emphasise the
guidance about your individual haircare needs. Your neckline while striking earrings can enhance a short
hairdresser can help you with thinning hair, partial hair loss hairstyle or look good with a hat or scarf.
and haircare during regrowth.
It is important to do whatever feels comfortable and
If your hair is thinning, careful styling can give the gives you the most confidence, whether that means
appearance of thicker hair. Wiglets or partial hairpieces can wearing hats, scarves and wigs or wearing nothing at all
also be used to add body or to cover bald areas. on your head.
Always check with your doctor before having
‘Look Good...Feel Better’ is a program for people
any perms or colours.
having cancer treatment. The program provides
men and women with valuable information about
Some other tips skincare, make-up and practical ways of dealing
with hair loss during treatment. For further
A healthy diet assists the growth of new hair. information call the Cancer Council Helpline on
13 11 20.
Look at different headwear options. Some people choose to
wear a wig. An alternative is to wear attractive hats, scarves
or turbans, available from the Cancer Council Queensland.
Department stores usually have a good selection of hats
Scarves usually need to be at least 50 centimetres long to
cover the head. Cotton, lightweight wool or blends are good
fabrics to use whereas nylon, silk and satin tend to slip off
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Especially for children Turbans
Children can also lose their hair during chemotherapy or
radiation therapy. It can be difficult for children to face Cancer Council Queensland has a selection of turbans
friends at school or playing sport. Teasing may occur made by our volunteers.
and this can be upsetting. The school guidance officer
You can obtain turbans and turban patterns by contacting
and teacher may be able to help classmates understand
the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20 or your nearest
what is happening.
regional Cancer Council Queensland office. You may even
Children may find a wig a bother and choose not want to make your own.
to wear one. Some girls may like a fun, colourful
wig. Baseball caps and beanies are popular headwear
for children. Scarves are also popular and can be tied in
lots of different ways. Try looking at what else is
Tips for children and their families
• Children may find it helpful to talk to parents, brothers,
sisters or friends about how they are feeling.
• Talk to the doctor, nurse or social worker to find out
what hair loss is expected during treatment.
• Talk to the school teachers and guidance officers. Your
child’s oncology liaison nurse, social worker or doctor
may be able to help with this.
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Wigs How do I obtain this assistance?
Each hospital has their own procedure for obtaining
assistance. To find out this procedure contact the social
worker, welfare worker, means test clerk or home medical
Wigs can be made from synthetic materials or real hair.
aids clerk at the local public hospital before purchasing
Both look natural.
Synthetic wigs are less expensive, easier to style, wash
Will this assistance cover the full cost of a wig?
easily, dry quickly and need less care.Most people
Assistance through the hospital will usually NOT cover
having cancer treatment wear a synthetic wig. Most
the full cost. The most assistance provided through the
synthetic wigs only last about nine months, but this may
hospital is approximately $125 plus GST. Synthetic wigs
be all you need.
usually cost between $200 and $450 depending on the
Human hair wigs tend to be more expensive and need style. Therefore, you may need to pay for some of the
to be dry cleaned, restyled professionally and set once
wig yourself. This is called the gap cost. You may
apply for financial assistance for this from Cancer
How to obtain a wig Council Queensland.
2. Applying for financial assistance towards the
There are several ways to obtain a wig. Before
cost of a wig through a private health fund
selecting a wig it is important to read through the
following information to find out which is the best way for Who can receive this assistance?
you to obtain a wig. Some people who are in a private health fund may be
able to obtain financial assistance towards the cost of
There are four main ways to organise a wig.
a wig through their private health fund.
1. Apply for assistance towards the cost of
Not all private health funds will reimburse for wigs.
a wig through public hospitals
Contact your private health fund before purchasing
Who can receive this assistance?
the wig to find out if you are eligible. If eligible, your
If you have a Health Care Card, Pensioner Concession private health fund will most likely require a letter from
Card or Commonwealth Seniors Health Card you may your medical specialist stating that you require a wig
be eligible for financial help through your public hospital. for medical reasons. If you require further financial
assistance contact the Cancer Council Helpline on
13 11 20.
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3. Applying for financial assistance towards the Selecting a wig – a few ideas to help you
cost of a wig through Veterans’ Affairs You might like to ask your hairdresser's opinion about
Who can receive this assistance? a style of wig that would suit you and whether it is
If you are a member of Veterans’ Affairs, you may be possible to get it cut and styled for you.
eligible for financial assistance for a wig.
If you are purchasing a wig, you may like to visit
To find out if you are eligible and also the procedure different wig retailers (listed under Wigs and/or
for obtaining this assistance, contact the Department Hairpieces in the Yellow Pages) and inspect the range
of Veterans’ Affairs before purchasing the wig. The of wigs available.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Brisbane can be
You may prefer to organise your wig before you
contacted on 133 254.
lose any hair, so that you have time to match it
with your own style and colour. This also means that
if you lose your hair more quickly than expected, you are
4. Accessing Cancer Council Queensland’s
It can be helpful to take a friend or a member of the
If you are not eligible for the assistance described in 1,
family with you when selecting a wig. You may decide
2 or 3 and you are having cancer treatment, you may
to have your hair cut and styled so that it will fit better
access the Cancer Council Queensland’s Wig Service.
under the wigs you try on.
Ring the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20 or your
nearest regional office for details. Try to get a wig that adjusts to any head size to take into
account variations as you lose your hair. Short styles
tend to be easier to look after than long wigs.
If you require further guidance on how to obtain
a wig, please call the Cancer Council Helpline on
13 11 20.
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Caring for a wig
How to care for a wig.
1. Gently brush hairpiece free of tangles.
2. Combine one capful of mild shampoo with half a basin of
3. Gently handwash the wig.
4. Rinse thoroughly in cold water. (If soap residue is left, the
wig will have a dull sheen).
5. No conditioner is necessary, however, adding eucalyptus oil
in the final rinse of water is an excellent conditioner.
6. Place hairpiece in a folded towel and press with hands to
remove excess water.
7. Allow the wig to dry (best if placed over a vase or bottle).
If the wig is put on a stand while wet, it will stretch. To dry
completely, leave overnight.
8. When thoroughly dry, brush the wig using light, short
strokes to fluff the wig. Use a wire brush. You may use
hairspray, gel or mousse if required.
How to wear your wig.
• Place the ear flaps in front of your ears, leaving the ears out.
• Ensure there are four finger widths from eyebrows to
beginning of hairline.
• Because the lining of the wig can irritate the scalp, it may be
helpful to wear a thin cotton scarf or skull cap underneath.
These are usually available from wig suppliers.
• If you are going shopping and will be trying on clothes or
going to the doctor, wear something that is easy to slip off.
Remember, clothes that go over your head may pull your wig
• Most wigs are adjusted to fit the head with velcro tabs.
For more information about your cancer and its treatment contact your treating
health professional or your nearest office of Cancer Council Queensland.
You can also contact the Cancer Council Helpline toll free on
13 11 20, Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm.
553 Gregory Terrace
Fortitude Valley Qld 4006
Ph: (07) 3258 2200
169 Aumuller Street
Bungalow Qld 4870
Ph: (07) 4031 1555
24 Warburton Street
North Ward Qld 4810
Ph: (07) 4721 1644
43 Upper Dawson Road
Rockhampton Qld 4700
Ph: (07) 4927 7088
Shop 4, Credit Union Australia Plaza
Corner Maroochydore Road and Baden Powell Street
Maroochydore Qld 4558
Ph: (07) 5443 6300
Corner Short Street and Marine Parade
Southport Qld 4215
Ph: (07) 5591 1500
137 Herries Street
Toowoomba Qld 4350
Ph: (07) 4638 4799