Actress Alicia Witt Talks Hair Loss After Cancer Treatment
- Actress Alicia Witt, 47, has opened up with fans about her experience with breast cancer — and her attempts to prevent hair loss through treatment.
- Witt used cold caps during chemotherapy, which are tight helmet-like devices full of cold liquid that can slow hair loss.
- Hair loss is a treatment side effect people going through cancer are often most worried about, since it can cause such drastic changes to appearance.
- Aside from cold caps, there are other options for patients to help with this change — including haircuts, wigs, and head coverings.
“I don’t mean for this to be a vanity post! but – I do want to share because I know that there are a lot of you here who have gone through the same,” Witt wrote on Instagram alongside two snaps of her hair growing back. “And I’m honestly feeling pretty elated about the state of my hair right now.”Read More
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Alicia Witt’s Cancer Journey
Witt first disclosed that she’d been battling cancer in June, two months after she completed chemotherapy prior to undergoing a mastectomy. In a candid Instagram post, she shared a video of her hitting a gong to mark the end of chemo — and praised her medical team, as well as the products she was able to use to keep a sense of normalcy.
“While keeping hair was obviously the last of my concerns on a larger level, I did deeply wish to keep my diagnosis private until it was 100% healed, god willing,” Witt wrote in the post about trying to prevent hair loss with cold caps.
Cold caps, or scalp cooling systems, are tightly-fitting, helmet-like hats filled with a cold gel or liquid that patients wear during chemotherapy. They can help people keep their hair, as the cooling system narrows the blood vessels beneath the skin of the scalp, which reduces the amount of chemotherapy that reaches hair follicles.
Coping with hair loss after cancer
Like Witt, many cancer survivors struggle with the thought of losing their hair. People dealing with cancer should not feel like these anxieties are shallow or vain in anyway. It’s absolutely natural to feel stressed or sad about a major change to your normal appearance. Dr. Samantha Boardman, a New York-based psychiatrist and author, told SurvivorNet in a previous conversation that patients should feel OK reaching out for help about hair loss-related stress.
“For cancer patients losing one’s hair can be unbelievably stressful,” she said. “To start with, the dread of losing one’s hair can lead to some sleepless nights and feelings of anxiety.” To cope, Dr. Boardman suggested reaching out to other survivors who have been through a similar situation — if you feel comfortable doing so.
“Talk to people who have been through it, get their advice, voice your concerns to your caregiver and see what they can do,” Dr. Boardman added.
While there are steps people going through cancer can take to try to minimize hair loss, there are several other options that can help patients maintain a sense of normalcy. The options for coping with hair loss include:
- Wearing a cold cap to minimize hair loss
- Cutting hair and using wigs
- Letting hair fall out and grow back naturally
- Using scarves/head coverings
Dr. Manojkumar Bupathi, a medical oncologist with Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers who treats women with ovarian cancer, told SurvivorNet the strategy for coping with hair loss really comes down to the individual patient and their wants/needs.
“The other thing is to really understand the hair loss, understanding the schedule of when it can happen, and trying to come up with ways of coping with that,” Dr. Bupathi said.
“There are some women that will essentially shave their head earlier and then start using a wig, even before it starts. That’s a very reasonable approach. Others will go through a natural process and let whatever hair fall out, and they start using a wig, or some won’t even use that — and that’s totally OK. It really comes down to the individual.”