Many people undergoing chemo-therapy will lose their hair as a result of their treatment. Some will find this a particularly distressing experience
You may feel that your hair is an important part of your visual identity and losing it may affect your confidence and self-esteem. Some people find that being prepared for hair loss before it occurs can help them cope better if it happens.
For many of us, the way we feel about ourselves is closely linked to the way we look, and so losing your hair can be devastating. You may feel angry that this has happened in addition to your cancer diagnosis
Hair loss may also make you feel vulnerable and exposed, particularly as it’s such a visible side effect and can change
your physical appearance. You may also see it as a constant reminder of your treatment, labelling you as a ‘cancer patient’. Such reactions are completely normal and understandable. Some people may find that they adjust quickly to hair loss. For others, this can take longer, or they may always find it difficult to accept and adapt.
In some cultures hair has a particular significance. For example, long hair may be seen as a symbol of fertility and desirability or a sign of health and status, while other cultures believe that the hair is a means of getting rid of impurities from the body. If hair has a special cultural significance for you, losing it may affect your cultural identity as well as your body image or self-esteem, making it even more difficult to come to terms with.
However, some people may find that the experience of losing their hair isn’t as upsetting as they thought it would be, perhaps because when it happens, they are more focused on the treatment itself. If there’s any likelihood of you losing your hair, your chemotherapy or breast care nurse will talk to you before treatment starts about what may happen. As well as talking about practical issues such as caring for your scalp or wearing a wig, you can also discuss your feelings about losing your hair and look at ways to help you adjust to it.
Everyone will find their own way of dealing with hair loss, but you may find it helps to talk to others who have been through the same experience. A good website to visit to reach other people going through the same thing is www.breastcancercare.org.uk