For many cancer patients, after the initial shock of diagnosis wears off, there’s deep anxiety about losing one’s hair due to chemotherapy. Chemotherapy consists of variable chemical combinations of oral and IV administered medications that attack rapidly-growing cells within the body. While the efficacy of chemo to attack cancer cells is amazing, it also attacks the rapidly multiplying cells within the scalp that control hair growth.
While there is little, advisable, treatment to prevent chemo-related hair loss, The Mayo Clinic cites the potential of topical, daily application of Minoxidil (Rogaine®) to aid in the re-growth of hair after patients have completed their full round(s) of treatment. For most chemotherapy-related hair-loss patients (both male and female), hair does not begin to re-grow until several weeks after their final dose of chemo. Most, but not all, cancer drugs result in hair regrowth after treatment. Ask your oncologist if the drug he plans to use has been associated with permanent hair loss. If chemo is being administered intravenously, an inflated blood pressure cuff placed on the forehead and around the back of the head as low as possible has been suggested to reduce the loss of hair in patients. The blood pressure cuff raises the patient’s systolic pressure to help prevent circulation of the drugs into the scalp.
Minoxidil (Rogaine®) is usually recommended for non-cancer patients who have just begun to lose their hair because of the product’s ability to maintain existing strands. Because chemotherapy destroys cells completely, including those that determine hair’s color and texture, it is not unusual for the first hair that appears after cancer treatment to be a different texture or color than it was before treatment. Also, because hair growth is a cyclical process that can take months to occur, topical hair-growth product users should know that treatment will require regular, daily application to become effective.
In addition to Minoxidil, Finasteride (Proscar ®/Propecia ®) is another very popular topical product for genetically linked baldness in men. As you may have read in his blog though, Dr. Edmond Griffin has developed a topical, botanical alopecia treatment made with melatonin that shows great promise for hair-loss in women.
While Minoxidil (Rogaine®) hair restoration treatment is promising for future use in cancer survivors, because of the lack of substantiated scientific research, it’s important to note that Minoxidil (Rogaine®) non-surgical hair-loss treatment has not yet been proven for this specific problem. This point reiterates the importance of working with board certified physicians aware of the most recent innovations in maintaining your health after cancer treatment and recovery.
To learn more about the other hair-loss treatment options available through The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research visit their website, read their blog, or contact their offices.