Hair Loss and Cancer Treatment
- TV host Sarah Beeny is doing a fundraiser for the UK-based charity Breast Cancer Now where she’s giving away the wigs she wore while struggling with hair loss during breast cancer treatment.
- Coping with cancer-related hair loss can be a very emotionally taxing experience. One of our experts says to talk to other people who’ve been through it and open up about your concerns with your care team. Another expert says it’s crucial to give yourself the space to grieve the initial shock of your hair loss.
- One cancer survivor told us she found humor in her hair loss during ovarian cancer treatment. She may have navigated the hair loss journey with a bit more laughter than some, but it’s important to know your feelings about the ordeal are valid no matter where you fall. Don’t hesitate to open up to others to find the support you need.
The English TV host and mother of four boys was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2022 and has since shared her journey with the world. Most recently, she opened up about getting rid of the wigs she used while struggling with hair loss from treatment.
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“I've got to the stage after my cancer treatment where I need to move forward and to do so, I wanted to pass on my wigs and get them off my bedroom windowsill!” she wrote under a picture of her wearing a “red chestnut” colored wig. “They've been a great support, good fun, sometimes a bit annoying, sometimes a bit ridiculous but all very important to me early on when I first lost my hair. Now I'd like these wigs to get to the people who are where I was 6 months ago and need a boost.”
Beeny went on to explain she would be doing a nine-day fundraiser for the UK-based charity Breast Cancer Now where she’ll post different wigs on Instagram and folks can comment on the one they want in order to have a chance to win that wig. Donations to the non-profit are encouraged but not required to enter.
“There are lots of incredible charities doing amazing things and many of which have been an immense support and source of vital information for my documentary, #sarahbeenyvscancer,” she wrote. “This time, I’ve chosen to fundraise for @breastcancernow with their main aims being raising awareness, providing support and funding life-saving research, including research into Secondary Breast Cancer (which is what ultimately killed my mother).”
“Good luck gorgeous people & thank you for supporting me throughout all this and for supporting @breastcancernow xxxx”
If you’re faced with cancer-related hair loss and interested in getting a wig, talk to your healthcare team about where you can find one.
Sarah Beeny’s Cancer Journey
Sarah Beeny was diagnosed with breast cancer after finding a lump in her breast. The news was shocking, of course, but Beeny almost saw it coming after losing her mother to the same disease when she was just 10 years old.
Coping with Hair Loss
"The nurse was so sweet and they were really nice to me but I thought, 'You don't understand. I've waited 40 years to hear those words,'” she said of hearing her diagnosis. "I knew I was going to hear them one day."
She underwent a double mastectomy, radiotherapy and chemotherapy for treatment. Thankfully, she announced in April 2023 that she was given the all-clear. Although she’s done with active treatment, she’ll still need to take drugs for the next 10 years and stay "very vigilant."
“I feel very fortunate that I had the diagnosis that I did, and that I live in 2022-23, and that I'm the age I am,” she said after receiving the good news. “So many things that I'm fortunate for.”
When Cancer Treatment Causes Hair Loss
Hair loss can be caused by some cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. And though this type of hair loss is generally temporary, it can still be a very emotionally taxing experience.
"The dread of losing one's hair can lead to sort of sleepless nights and you know, a feeling of anxiety," Dr. Samantha Boardman, a New York-based psychiatrist and author, told SurvivorNet. "Talk to people who have been through it, get their advice, voice your concerns to your caregiver and see what they can do."
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Aside from opening up to others about your experience, another way to cope with hair loss is to allow yourself the space to grieve. After you’ve done that, it can be easier to move forward with positivity.
"I help patients acknowledge their grief so they can move on. I think the more we try to push [those feelings] away and say, 'Oh, it doesn't matter,' it tends to stick around a little longer," Laurie Ostacher, a medical social worker at Sutter Bay Medical Foundation in the Bay Area, said. "If [a woman] seems like she's having trouble moving on, we explore [that too]."
Above all else, know you’re not alone. Teri Chow, for instance, knows just how hard it can be after her hair started falling out shortly following her second round of chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. Thankfully, she’s since found a way to look back on that time of her life with a sense of humor.
"The other moms at the school didn't realized that I was going through this, and they'd compliment me on the wig and not knowing it was wig," Chow told SurvivorNet, laughing. "I made the mistake to somebody I thought knew. I went, 'Oh, thank you,' And I moved the wig forward and she freaked out [and I was] like, 'Sorry, sorry, I thought you knew!'"
Chow’s hair did eventually grow back, though it wasn’t the same as before. Still, she found confidence in a ditching the wigs for a whole new hairdo complete with straightener and dye.
"I did the Dorothy Hamill kind of bob," she explained.
If you’re struggling with hair loss, try to open up to others. Your feelings are valid, and you never know when a conversation can lead to a life-changing shift in perspective or a confidence-boosting solution.