Coping With Hair Loss
- Super Bowl 56 is just a few days away, and football fans are getting ready for the big game. One of those (Bengals) fans is Melissa Lohmiller, a Cincinnati, Ohio-area teacher who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.
- The chemotherapy caused her to lose most of her hair, but she is making the best of her situation; she is rocking orange and black stripes on her head to support her favorite team.
- There are a large number of chemotherapy treatments that cause hair loss, but not all of them; others cause hair thinning. If you are concerned about your hair, talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner.
One of those (Bengals) fans is Melissa Lohmiller, a Cincinnati, Ohio-area school teacher who was diagnosed with breast cancer in October of last year. (The stage and type of her breast cancer remain unknown to SurvivorNet.)Read More
The chemotherapy caused her to lose most of her hair, but she is making the best of her situation; she is rocking orange and black stripes on her head to support her favorite team: the Cincinnati Bengals. (This year’s Super Bowl is between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals.)
“It was kind of just an ongoing tease like, ‘Oh, you know, if the Bengals make it to the Super Bowl, we should dye your head orange and black,’” Lohmiller says.
But that tease became a reality when Lohmiller’s friend helped her dye her short hair orange and black to represent the Bengals in the team’s third-ever Super Bowl appearance. (The Bengals have not been to the Super Bowl since the 1980s.)
The day after the Super Bowl — Valentine’s Day — Lohmiller has another round of chemotherapy scheduled. She says that if the Bengals win, it will give her “an extra boost of happiness” at the appointment. (Lohmiller adds that she is expected to have breast cancer surgery soon, and will hopefully no longer need chemotherapy after that.)
Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy for breast cancer uses strong drugs to kill cancer all over the body. It is possible that patients get this treatment to shrink a tumor before surgery, afterward to get rid of any remaining cancer cells or on its own if the patient cannot have surgery.
Whether or not to have chemotherapy can also be the patient’s choice, depending on their age, the type of cancer they have and its stage.
If the patient’s breast cancer is triple-negative, which means the three main types of receptors — estrogen, progesterone and the HER2 protein — do not fuel the cancer, chemotherapy is typically the treatment. This is because the cancer does not respond to certain targeted therapies.
Women who are diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer have high levels of the HER2 protein on the outside of their cancer cells. For patients with early-stage disease, meaning they have relatively small tumors and no lymph involvement, a number of HER2-directed therapies have dramatically changed the landscape. These include chemotherapy drug trastuzumab (brand name: Herceptin), as well as pertuzumab (brand name: Perjeta), which is a monoclonal antibody used in combination with chemotherapy.
We wish Lohmiller a happy post-Super Bowl chemotherapy session!
Coping With Hair Loss; Making the Best of it With a Super Bowl Hairstyle
Vivian Ruszkiewicz, a nurse practitioner with OhioHealth, a not-for-profit system of hospitals and health care providers in Columbus, Ohio, tells SurvivorNet that hair loss is one of the more “distressing” side effects of chemotherapy.
“It’s one of the things that people can see from the outside that people may know that you are ill,” she says, “and that poses a lot of stress for patients.”
There are a large number of chemotherapy treatments that cause hair loss, but not all of them, she says; others cause hair thinning. Ruszkiewicz stresses that if you are concerned about your hair, talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner about what to expect from your chemotherapy treatment.
She adds that some people who only experience partial hair loss still choose to wear a wig, like many people who lose their hair completely, before chemotherapy so that they are prepared, “so they can feel more like themselves during chemotherapy.” In Lohmiller’s case, she decided to make the best of her hair loss and embrace it, dying her hair to support her favorite team in the Super Bowl.
Ruszkiewicz says that hair loss begins about three to four weeks after your first chemo treatment; you could start to see some hair regrowth about four to six weeks after your last treatment.
“Then it will kind of continue from there, as long as you aren’t being treated with another medication that might cause hair loss,” she says. “But in general, most people do have a resumption of hair growth, and can slowly over time put away their wigs and scarves, and are able to kind of go back to what they expected in terms of their hair growth.”
In other words, remember that hair loss is temporary!