Hair Loss and Cancer Treatment
- TV star Sarah Beeny is currently battling breast cancer – the same disease that took her mother’s life when Beeny was just 10 years old. Thankfully, she felt a lot of support from fans, friends and family during her cancer journey thus far.
- In a recent post, Beeny shared a new wig she was rocking as she deals with hair loss from chemotherapy treatments.
- Chemotherapy and radiation can both cause hair loss or thinning, but both treatment options usually don’t cause permanent hair loss.
- Hair loss can be an emotional challenge for people with cancer. But our experts recommend allowing yourself to grieve the initial shock of hair loss to make it easier to accept and hopefully find some positivity from there.
Most recently, the English broadcaster has been sharing that she’s having fun with wigs as she deals with hair loss from her chemotherapy treatments.
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“New day new wig,” she wrote in a recent Instagram post. “This might be more fun than I expected…!!! X”
Comedian and actor Leigh Francis, known professionally as Keith Lemon, made a point to show his support for Beeny as she continues her cancer battle.
“Looks ace!,” he wrote.
Fans galore also sent many kind messages her way.
“So so beautiful and natural I love it ❤️,” user @lishasearl wrote.
“Attitude is everything ♥️..we should all #BeMoreBeeny,” another sweet fan wrote.
In a previous Instagram post, Beeny even shared how much the support she’s received has helped her with everything going on.
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“I couldn’t think of a better image to put with this message of utter overwhelming gratitude to all of you lovely lovely people who have messaged me from my last post,” she wrote referencing her previous post about cutting her hair prior to chemotherapy. “Thank you for sharing your stories – thank you for your virtual hugs and thank you for sparing time to send me good wishes.
“It has made SUCH a difference and I will be eternally grateful.”
Sarah Beeny’s Breast Cancer Battle
Beeny shared the news of her breast cancer battle last month. Her diagnosis came once she visited her doctor after finding a lump in her breast.
More than understandably, Beeny’s diagnosis led to “a little bit of a breakdown.” It also brought up some repressed emotions because her mother had passed from the same disease when Beeny was just 10 years old.
For treatment, she’s currently undergoing chemotherapy. She’ll also have surgery and radiotherapy in the new year.
Thankfully, the mother of four – Billy, 18, Charlie, 16, Rafferty, 14, and Laurie, age 12 – and wife of actor Graham Swift has had her family’s support throughout the whole process.
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“My trainee hairdressers cut off my hair on Friday night,” she wrote under a picture of her boys chopping off her hair posted at the end of August. “Getting one step ahead after first chemo treatment for breast cancer on Friday – the exclusive club you’d rather not be a member of!”
Hair Loss and Cancer Treatment
Many chemotherapies do cause hair loss or thinning, and this can be an incredibly distressing side effect. It’s important to speak with your doctor about any personal issues that may be caused by treatment side effects including the loss or thinning of your hair. To help patients cope with hair loss, a doctor or nurse may be able to recommend a local wig-maker or other resources that can help slow down the process.
However, it’s also important to remember that the hair loss associated with chemo is temporary. Hair loss typically begins about three to four weeks after beginning chemotherapy and continues throughout treatment. People can expect regrowth around four to six weeks after they complete treatment, but some patients may experience some changes to hair color and texture when it begins growing back.
Radiation is another treatment that can cause hair loss if hair is in the path of the tumor being treated. If you have a brain tumor being treated with radiation, for example, you may lose the hair on your head.
“If you do lose hair, it will regrow several weeks — or months — after treatment,” Dr. James Taylor, a radiation oncology resident at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, told SurvivorNet. “Fortunately, for most patients, hair loss is not a concern when having radiation therapy.”
The National Cancer Institute does say that “a very high dose of radiation” can cause the hair affected by treatment to grow back thinner or not at all, but it returns more often than not.
Coping with Hair Loss
Even if it’s temporary, hair loss can be a very difficult part of a person’s cancer journey – something Teri Chow knows all too well.
Chow was 44 years old when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The San Jose resident knew she would lose her hair during chemotherapy, and she even tried to prepare her family for the change by cutting her long locks into a short bob. In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Chow shared how she coped with her hair loss after chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer.
“I think it was shortly after the second round of chemo, so that would’ve been about four weeks after starting chemo, [my hair] started to fall out,” Chow said. “It was coming out in the shower [and] it was coming out just combing [my] hair.”
Some people choose to shave their heads right away so they don’t have to watch their hair fall out, but Chow decided to start wearing a wig immediately. She even looks back on that time in her life with some humor. She would often laugh because many people didn’t even realize she was wearing a wig.
“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 laughs. “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!’”
Then when her hair eventually started to grow back, Chow decided to switch things up and ditch the wig. She visited a hair dresser who transformed her short, curly, gray locks into a whole new look with a straightener and some dye.
And while Chow may have handled the hair loss journey with a bit more laughter than some, it’s important to know that everyone’s experience is individual. Feeling upset over losing your hair is very common and a completely warranted emotion.
Experts tell SurvivorNet that grieving over a cancer diagnosis often represents the end of them being a “healthy person.” They encourage patients to feel through those emotions because the grief can be a crucial step to accepting the new normal and being able to push through treatment. After grieving the initial shock of hair loss, it might be easier to accept and find some positivity from there.
“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,” says Laurie Ostacher, a medical social worker at Sutter Bay Medical Foundation in the Bay Area. “If [a woman] seems like she’s having trouble moving on, we explore [that too].”