Chemotherapy is a useful and effective form of treatment for many cancer patients. For some, it is the only form of treatment they can get to treat or at the very least manage their cancer. Although a necessary treatment for cancer patients, chemotherapy has been seen to have numerous side effects. Of these side effects, the most visible is the loss of hair on the body. As much as you may love and adore your hair, treating your cancer at the expense of losing it is a small price to pay. This is because contrary to the cancer cells not regrowing, the hair cells will begin to regrow after the treatment process comes to an end. The query however for most people is how the chemotherapy treatment leads to the loss of hair.
Chemotherapy Medications And The Effect They Have On Eyelashes
The chemotherapy treatment uses very strong drugs. The chemotherapy medication works by attacking body cells that rapidly multiply. Cancer cells are known to be rapid multipliers and thus the use of chemotherapy. Although these drugs are effective when treating cancer, they have a negative effect on the hair follicles. This is because hair follicles are also rapid multipliers. In an attempt to attack and destroy the cancer cells, the chemotherapy drugs also attacks and destroys all other rapid multiplying cells including the hair follicles. The loss of hair is not only exhibited on the scalp but all over the body. The face being of prime concern for many is affected by the falling out of the eyelashes.
The eyelashes just as any other hairs on the body is affected by the chemotherapy treatment. This leads to numerous side effects on the lashes resulting to them falling off. The chemotherapy drugs responsible for the falling out of the lashes include:
There is a chemotherapy treatment known as CAF. The ‘A’ in the initials stands for the Adriamycin drug. This drug is quite powerful and leads to complete loss of hair on the body. This side effect takes place soon after the commencement of the CAF chemotherapy treatment. In addition to this, loss of eyelashes and eyebrows has been reported in some women.
CAF is not the only chemo treatment we have. CMF is yet another form of chemotherapy treatment. Methtrexate forms the ‘M’ in the above initials. This drug is relatively less aggressive on the hair follicles. On the lashes, the drug results in their thinning thus minimal eyelash loss if any. It is important to note that not all patients using Methotrexate will experience the thinning of their lashes. To others, their is no effect. Moreover, users of this drug will not experience complete hair loss.
Cytoxan & 5 fluorouracil
This drug does not have extensive hair loss effects as some of the other drugs in the treatment. Cytoxan & 5 fluorouracil is less dangerous to the hair follicles. This leads to the minimal loss of hair especially in women. However, the hair loss in some women is greater than in others. With this drug, the loss of eyelashes is quite minimal.
Taxol is one of the most powerful drug in the chemotherapy medication. This drug registers highly negative effects especially when it comes to the loss of hair. Taxol is responsible for the complete loss of hair on the body. This includes the hair on the scalp, the eyelashes and the eyebrows as well as the hairs on the arms, legs and the pubic areas.
Ways Of Coping With Hair Loss During And After A Chemotherapy Treatment
When the chemotherapy treatment starts, its effects on the hair follicles are not exhibited immediately. It takes relatively two weeks before any signs of hair loss can be seen. In some people, the hair loss can occur as early as one week after commencing the treatment while in others, it can wait out until the third week of medication. All these depends on the individual as well as types of drugs prescribed.
Before going for the chemotherapy treatment, it is important to take great care of your hair. Avoid using any chemicals such as bleaches and dyes on your hair for the period preceding the treatment. This ensures that your hair follicles remain strong and look healthier even as the treatment begins. It enables the follicles to cope with the drugs in a better way. As the treatment starts and throughout the treatment period, continue caring for your hair as you use gentler hair products. Once the treatment is over, hair growth products can be used to stimulate the regrowth of hair. For the fallen eyelashes, the individual can use eyelash growth products that are mild on the skin. Be sure to use good quality eyelash enhancer to stimulate the lashes to grow longer and fuller.
It is quite unfortunate that the loss of hair on the body during a chemotherapy treatment cannot be prevented or even managed. The loss of hair is inevitable and affects all hairs on the body. This leaves the body vulnerable to external factors especially the head and the face. The head becomes overly sensitive when exposed to the sun or to the cold. It is therefore very important to protect your head as this will aid in the future regrowth of your hair once the chemotherapy treatment is over. It is comforting to know that the effects of chemotherapy on the hair are temporary. Once the treatment is over, stick to natural eyelash growth products until your lashes become strong enough. Only good quality eyelash enhancer should be used when regrowing the lashes. All in all, continuous hair care including eyelash care and patience are the key to achieving hair growth.