Radiation Therapy Side Effect: Hair Loss
How will radiation therapy affect my hair?
Hair follicles are very sensitive to radiation, and your treatments may cause you to lose
your hair. Most patients will notice hair loss within the treatment area about three weeks
after the start of radiation. You may want to have your hair cut short prior to starting
radiation therapy. If you decide to wear a wig, you should shop before you have hair loss
in order to match color and style.
Hair loss may be temporary or permanent, depending on the amount of radiation received
and other treatments you may be receiving, such as chemotherapy. If your hair loss is
temporary, it will probably re-grow about 3 to 6 months after your treatment is complete.
You may notice that the re-growth of hair is thinner or a different texture.
How will radiation therapy affect my scalp?
Your scalp (the skin over your head) is sensitive to radiation, especially after hair
loss. Your skin may become pink, tender or inflamed -- much like a sunburn. After two or
three weeks of treatment, your scalp may become dry and itchy. Notify your health care
provider and he or she will give you cream to use as directed. Do not use home remedies,
as they may interfere with treatment.
A dry, irritated scalp is a temporary condition and will begin to improve about two
weeks after the treatment is complete. If necessary, medication can be prescribed to
relieve discomfort and itching. To minimize scalp reaction throughout your treatment,
follow these suggestions:
- Avoid frequent shampooing. Use a mild shampoo (such as baby shampoo) without any
- Wash your scalp with warm water only. Avoid rubbing and DO NOT SCRATCH. Pat dry with a
- Avoid excessively combing or brushing your hair.
- Avoid using hair spray, oils or creams.
- Avoid using heat sources (including hair dryers, rollers or curling irons).
- Do not perm or color your hair until about four weeks after your treatment is complete.
- Protect your head from the sun, cold and wind by wearing a head covering (such as a cap,
turban, scarf or hat made of cotton or a cotton blend).
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