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Hair Today…Gone Tomorrow

Hair Today…Gone Tomorrow

By Dr. Linda Amerson

Have you ever awakened one morning with your hair all over your pillow? If your answer is YES, you are not alone. In some cases cytotoxic drugs for chemotherapy are the cause, while in other cases, the cause is unknown. 

Many chemotherapy patients may experience Alopecia totalis, which is hair loss over the entire scalp. Chemotherapy treatments are synthetic drugs given at pre-arranged intervals to disrupt the cancer cells ability to grow. These cytotoxic drugs, via the bloodstream, travel through the entire body. In addition to treating the cancer, these drugs may cause temporary side effects in rapidly growing cells, such as those cells of the blood, stomach and hair.

Among these side effects may include hair loss, mouth sores, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and a reduced number of white blood cells. Chances of infection are increased.

Cancer is a very complex disease. There are 150 anti-cancer drugs approved by the FDA, and more than 700 oncology drugs in late stages of development. As of October 2017, based on drug mechanism of action, these agents are divided into 2 groups: 61 cytotoxic-based drugs and 89 target-based drugs. 

Hair loss may occur as early as two-four weeks after the first effective dose. Hair could fall out very quickly, in clumps, gradually when you comb or brush your hair, on your pillow, or in the shower drain.

A patient’s scalp may experience these symptoms: heat, itchiness, tenderness, tingling, sensitivity, or development of pimples. 

Some facilities use “scalp hypothermia.” This technique includes scalp cooling caps applied on the scalp during chemotherapy treatment to help prevent hair loss. Research results show that cold caps are highly effective in 50-65 percent of women who use them.

When regrowth occurs, the hair texture is a different texture, and sometimes a different hair color. 

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, with the statistics at 25.4 percent. 

Women should give themselves monthly breast exams and annual mammograms. There are two types of mammograms: film:screen and digital. Technology has allowed one more type: 3-D mammogram…which takes multiple images of breast tissue.

Age 50 for women is the recommended age to begin mammograms, unless women have a family history, an earlier age may be recommended by a physician. Take your health seriously. Free mammograms are offered during October.

Special note: Connie Louise Amerson-Garner, my sister, lost her breast cancer battle in 2016. She is truly missed.

Dr. Linda Amerson is a Board Certified Trichologist at LA’s Hair & Scalp Clinic. 817-265-8854.

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