Coping with Hair Loss During Cancer Treatment
- "Street Outlaws" reality TV star and race car driver Lizzy Musi, 32, said she’s not ready to cut her long, blonde hair ahead of treatment for stage 4 breast cancer.
- Musi said she has just been accepted for treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, one of the best cancer facilities in the country.
- Musi's cancer is advanced and had already spread to her lymph nodes and liver.
- Hair loss or thinning can be a side effect of some cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.
- If losing your hair is a concern for you ahead of cancer treatment, know you have options like wigs, hats, wraps, and scarves.
As "Street Outlaws" TV star Lizzy Musi, 32, moves forward in her stage 4 breast cancer journey and prepares for treatment, she admits that she’s not ready to take a big and emotional step: cutting her long, blonde hair.
Lizzy Musi is known for pushing limits as a regular race car driver on the Discovery Channel reality TV show "Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings," which chronicles the world of street racing. Her latest journey is of a different kind that will test her spirit in a whole new way.
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She was recently diagnosed with triple negative stage 4 breast cancer. Stage 4, or metastatic, breast cancer is the hardest type of cancer to treat. Metastatic means the cancer has spread beyond the breast to other parts of the body.
Since her cancer was advanced and had already spread to her lymph nodes and liver, she wanted to take swift action to treat it. In a new video, Musi shared with her fiance Kye that she was accepted for treatment at one of the best cancer facilities in the country: MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
"I got accepted!," Lizzy Musi said with a gleeful and relieved smile.
After learning where she will be there for the next few months for cancer treatment, they had to quickly pack their things because doctors want her to begin quickly.
"They want to do some scans and stuff," Lizzy Musi added.
Ahead of treatment, the cancer warrior prepared herself for one of the most emotional parts of any cancer journey: hair loss.
"My crazy self last night, I decided to cut my hair. It's a little shorter than I normally have,” she said, admitting that “I'm not ready” to take the plunge of cutting it all off.
Hair Loss: The Emotional Step During Cancer Journey
Hair loss is an emotional struggle for many women, including cancer patients. Lizzy Musi is attempting to prepare herself for the day her beautiful long locks of hair are gone. She told her fiance she may cut her hair in stages to prepare.
Hair loss can be a very distressing prospect for anyone whether you're going through cancer treatment or facing another illness. When it comes to hair loss during cancer, here's what to know.
Unfortunately, hair loss or thinning can be a side effect of some cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.
Chemotherapy-related hair loss usually begins about three to four weeks after beginning chemotherapy and continues throughout treatment.
It happens because this treatment targets quickly dividing cells throughout the body. That includes cancer cells, but also hair cells.
And the loss doesn't only affect hair on the scalp. Women may lose their eyebrows and eyelashes, too. Going bald can have a big impact on your self-esteem.
Most people can expect regrowth around four to six weeks after they complete treatment, but some people may notice changes to hair color and texture when their hair starts to grow back.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are currently no treatments out there that guarantee your hair won't fall out during or after chemo. Even still, there are some treatments available that can help, including:
- Scalp cooling caps
- Minoxidil (Rogaine)
More on Hair Loss Options During Cancer Treatment
- How to Slow Hair Loss During Chemotherapy for Ovarian Cancer
- If You’re Looking For Ways To Deal With Hair Loss During Cancer, You’re Not Alone
- 'I Did a Thing!': 19-Year-Old Actress Miranda McKeon Shaves Her Head Before Final Round of Chemo; Breast Cancer in Young Women & How to Cope With Hair Loss
- Taking Control of Her Diagnosis Helped One Ovarian Cancer Survivor Come to Terms With the Loss of Her Hair
Radiation is another treatment that can lead to hair loss if the hair is in the path of the tumor being treated. Radiation for a brain tumor, for example, may cause hair loss.
"If you do lose hair, it will regrow several weeks or months after treatment," radiation oncologist Dr. James Taylor told SurvivorNet. "Fortunately, for most patients, hair loss is not a concern when having radiation therapy."
According to the National Cancer Institute, your hair may grow back thinner or not at all on the part of your body that received radiation if you received a very high dose of radiation.
If losing your hair is a concern for you ahead of cancer treatment, know you have options like wigs, hats, wraps, and scarves, among other things.
And talk to your doctors about potential treatments you could try to mitigate the loss and resources at your disposal for handling the loss. Some doctors may even be able to recommend a local wig maker.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Hair Loss During Cancer Treatment:
- Is it likely that I will lose my hair due to treatment?
- Is there anything I can do to reduce these side effects?
- What can I do to reduce the anxiety I am feeling over hair loss?
- Are there any products you recommend?
WATCH: Ways to best deal with hair loss during cancer battle.
How to Cope With Hair Loss During Cancer Treatment
"For cancer patients losing one's hair can be unbelievably stressful. To start with, the dread of losing one's hair can lead to, some sleepless nights and feelings of anxiety," Dr. Samantha Boardman, a New York-based psychiatrist and author, told SurvivorNet.
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.
She stressed that anxiety over hair loss doesn't just affect women, as men going through cancer often struggle with it as well.
Treating Stage 4 Breast Cancer
Stage 4 breast cancer means that your cancer has spread to distant areas of the body. It is no longer regionalized to the breast. It is also known as metastatic breast cancer.
While there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, doctors have a lot of options to treat this stage of the advanced disease and more options are being studied and developed constantly.
The current treatment options include hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted drugs. Sometimes surgery and/or radiation is considered.
WATCH: What is Triple Negative Breast Cancer?
Though it can be scary to find that you have late-stage cancer, new treatments have improved the outlook for stage 4 cancer, according to the leading medical experts SurvivorNet consulted. These new treatments are increasing the lifespan of women with metastatic disease.
For women with HER2-positive breast cancer, meaning they have high levels of a protein called HER2 on the surface of their cancer cells, targeted treatments are available. The drugs trastuzumab (Herceptin) and pertuzumab (Perjeta) have transformed the outlook for some women with late-stage breast cancers.
These therapies, which are often combined with chemo, are very effective at controlling breast cancer once it has spread.
Another big advancement has come in the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer. This has historically been one of the most aggressive and hardest to treat forms of the disease because it lacks any of the main drivers of breast cancerthe estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor, and the HER2 receptorand it doesn't respond to treatments that target these receptors.
Now, in addition to chemotherapy, immunotherapy has been approved to treat triple-negative breast cancer. In studies, this new therapy has been shown to extend the lives of women with this type of cancer.
For postmenopausal women with hormone-receptor-positive and HER2-negative breast cancers, a newer class of drugs called CDK4/6 inhibitors are available. These drugs have been shown to improve survival in some women with metastatic cancer.
Lizzy Musi's Next Step During Cancer Journey
Once Lizzy Musi gets settled in at MD Anderson, she said she will speak with the medical oncologist to discuss the treatment plan.
Fortunately, the cancer warrior is not alone, as her mom and fiance are by her side offering emotional support. By week's end,
Lizzy and her fiance expect to learn what their immediate and long-term future will look like, including if Lizzy can get back behind the wheel of her beloved race cars.