does radiation therapy cause hair loss
By Tamim Hamid Last Updated on 04/24/2024

Does Radiation Therapy Make You Lose Hair?: 7 Treatments

Radiation therapy is a critical component in the battle against cancer, often employed to eliminate and control cancer cells within the body. It can significantly improve outcomes and enhance the quality of life for individuals facing the formidable disease. However, like any treatment, radiation therapy comes with its own side effects. One common question that arises is, "Does radiation therapy cause hair loss?" Yes, radiation therapy can cause hair loss in the area being treated. Hair loss occurs because the radiation damages hair follicles.

In this blog, we are going to shed light on this aspect of cancer treatment, discussing the causes, implications, coping strategies, and available support for those facing radiation-induced hair loss.

Understanding Radiation Hair Loss

Radiation Hair loss is a consequence of radiation therapy, wherein the radiation damages the hair follicles in the treatment area. This damage disrupts the normal hair growth cycle, leading to the shedding of hair in the affected region. The severity of hair loss can vary based on factors such as dosage and duration of radiation treatment and the specific area of the body receiving radiation.

The extent of hair loss during radiation therapy depends on several factors, with dosage and duration of treatment playing a crucial role. The higher the dosage and longer the duration, the more likely significant hair loss will occur. Additionally, the area of the body receiving radiation therapy is also a determining factor. Areas with denser hair follicles are more susceptible to substantial hair loss. Hair loss may also be permanent with higher doses of radiation therapy.

Unlike chemotherapy, which impacts the entire body, radiation-induced hair loss occurs only in the treatment region or where the radiation beams penetrate. For instance, if radiation is administered to the head, it affects solely the hair follicles in the specific area. Conversely, if radiation is targeted at other body parts, like the chest, legs, or abdomen, hair loss will only occur in those particular regions, sparing the hair on the head.

Is Radiation Hair Loss Permanent?

The good news is that radiation therapy-induced hair loss is usually temporary. The damaged hair follicles will become inactive during treatment, causing hair to thin and fall out. However, most follicles are not permanently destroyed. Once radiation therapy ends, the follicles typically start growing new hair again within a few months.

After radiation treatment, it may take 6 months to a year to see full hair regrowth. The new hair may have a different texture or color at first. Gradually, your regular hair usually grows back. Very rarely, high doses of radiation can permanently harm some hair follicles, resulting in permanent patches of hair loss. But for most people, radiation hair loss is temporary.

Side Effects and Emotional Impact of Hairloss from Radiotherapy

Radiation therapy is a critical component of cancer treatment. However, radiation hair loss can be emotionally and psychologically challenging for individuals. It’s not merely a physical change but a transformation that affects self-esteem and body image. Dealing with changes in appearance can trigger a range of emotions, including anxiety, depression, and loss of confidence. It’s essential for individuals experiencing radiation hair loss to seek support from professionals, support groups, and loved ones to navigate these emotional challenges.

7 Ways to Manage Radiation Hair Loss

Dealing with radiation-induced hair loss can be emotionally challenging, but there are several ways you can manage and cope with this temporary side effect effectively.

1. Cold Cap Therapy

One way to possibly prevent radiation hair loss is cold cap therapy. Wear a specialized cooling cap before, during, and after radiation therapy. The cold temperature constricts blood vessels in the scalp, reducing the blood flow and the amount of chemotherapy drugs that reach the hair follicles. This way can help minimize hair loss during treatment.

2. Scalp Massage

Scalp massage is another method that may help with hair loss from radiation therapy. Gently massage your scalp which can increase blood circulation and may promote hair regrowth. While massaging, keep in mind that you should treat your hair gently. Furthermore, avoid shampoo with harmful ingredients; always use a mild shampoo to wash your hair.

3. Healthy Diet

Maintain a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins essential for hair health. Incorporate fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains to support overall well-being and encourage hair regrowth.

4. Wig or Hairpiece

Consider investing in a wig or hairpiece made of natural hair or synthetic material that closely matches your natural hair color and style. This can help boost your confidence during the period of hair loss.

5. Consider a New Hairstyle

If radiation therapy makes your lose hair, a new hairstyle could help. If you’re comfortable doing so, experiment with different hairstyles that suit your current hair situation. A new haircut or style can help you feel more in control and confident.

6. Use Sun Protection

Protect your scalp from sun exposure by wearing a hat or using sunscreen to prevent sunburn. A sunburned scalp can be uncomfortable, especially during hair loss.

Find out more how sunburned scalp can cause hair loss.

7. Use Laser Hair Therapy

Laser hair growth helmets, also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT) devices, are sometimes used to stimulate hair regrowth in various conditions, including androgenetic alopecia (pattern baldness), hair loss associated with aging as well as radiation-induced hair loss. You need to consult your healthcare team if you want to opt for laser hair therapy.

Theradome LH80 PRO is the world’s most technologically advanced laser hair therapy device. Any patient can use it in the comfort and privacy of their homes. At-home laser hair therapy devices do not disrupt compliance or decrease treatment efficacy. With this approach, you can potentially reverse radiation-induced hair loss faster.

FAQs

Does radiation therapy cause hair loss?

Yes, radiation therapy can cause hair loss. The radiation can affect the hair follicles, leading to temporary or permanent hair loss in the treated area.

What are the 2 most common side effects of radiation therapy?

The two most common side effects of radiation therapy are fatigue (feeling very tired) and skin changes in the treatment area. The skin may become red, dry, and irritated during radiation.

Do all radiation patients lose hair?

No, not all radiation patients lose hair. Hair loss can occur as a side effect of radiation treatment, but it depends on the specific area being treated and the radiation dose. Not everyone experiences hair loss, and it can vary from person to person.

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Tamim Hamid

Tamim Hamid

Inventor and CEO of Theradome

Sayyid Tamim Hamid, Ph.D, is the inventor of the world’s first FDA-cleared, wearable phototherapy device to prevent hair loss and thicken and regrow hair. Tamim, a former biomedical engineer at NASA and the inventor of Theradome, brings with him more than 38 years of expertise in product development, laser technology, and biomedical science. Tamim used his laser knowledge, fine-tuned at NASA, and combined it with his driving passion for helping others pursue a lifelong mission in hair loss and restoration. He is now one of the world’s leading experts.