Hair loss or alopecia is one of the most well-known side effects of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy is the most common cause of hair loss for cancer patients. Radiation can also cause hair loss in the treated area. However, not all cancer patients lose their hair. Ask your oncologist if hair loss is a side effect of your specific treatment plan.
If you do lose your hair due to chemotherapy, it typically begins during the first 2-4 weeks of treatment. Hair loss is usually gradual. You may notice hair on your pillow in the morning or in the shower. Some people prefer to shave their heads as soon as hair loss begins. This is a personal choice and up to you! Some patients do not lose all their hair, but experience a lot thinning. Others lose all their hair, including body hair such as eyebrows.
If you will lose your hair due to treatment, you may be considering a wig. If you’ve never worn or purchased a wig, you may have questions.
When should I buy a wig?
First, ask your oncologist if hair loss is a side effect of your treatment. Wigs can be expensive so don’t jump the gun if hair loss isn’t a likely side effect for you.
If hair loss is a side effect of your treatment, your may wish to pick out a wig before you being treatment. If this is your first time purchasing a wig, it may be best to go to a wig store in person to speak with a stylist and to try on different styles. If you wish to keep a style similar to your natural hair, it may also help to match a wig to your hair before you being treatment.
What style wig should I choose?
Some people prefer to choose a style close their natural color and style. Others prefer to have experiment with new colors and styles. The choice is yours! Go to a store to try on different styles and colors.
Wigs come with either synthetic hair or real human hair. There are pros and cons to each type of wig. Synthetic wigs are usually easier to care for and hold their style. They are also usually less expensive. You cannot use hair dryers, curling irons, or other hot tools on synthetic wigs, so you cannot change the style. Human hair wigs are usually more expensive. These wigs can be styled with hot tools like curling irons and hairdryers. Since the hair is real, the texture and feel is more natural. Human hair wigs last longer than synthetic wigs, but synthetic wigs still last for a year with good upkeep.
How does a wig stay in place?
Wig caps or headbands help hold the wig in place. These can be made out of nylon or mesh. Some people use a special glue or double sided tape. The wig itself may have an adjustable band to loosen to tighten it. You can also always use headband or scarf over the wig to hold it more securely in pace. However, with a properly fitting wig, this shouldn’t be necessary.
How do I take care of my wig?
Your wig should be washed about once a week using a wig shampoo. Synthetic wigs have to air dry so it may be best to have two wigs, so that one is always clean and ready to wear. Or, you can opt for hats, scarves, or turbans on off days if you prefer to keep your head covered at all times or if you get cold easily.
For specific instructions on washing your wig, check out this blog from Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
What if I can’t afford a wig?
Check to see if your private insurance covers wigs. Wigs for cancer patients may also be tax deductible. You can also check out these organizations with provide free or discounted wigs for cancer patients:
What are the alternatives to wigs?
Hats, scarves, and turbans are all great alternatives to wigs. These can keep you warm in cold weather and protect you from sunburn outdoors. Many cancer patients also choose to go natural. There is nothing wrong with showing your head. It’s up to you and how you feel most comfortable. Bald is beautiful, too!