- Question from Gizzy: Is there anything I can do to help speed up the hair growth, so eyebrows will fill in and hair will be thicker?
- Answers - Mary Gail Mercurio Although the hair that is lost on the scalp is most apparent, this affects any hair on the body. As far as making the hair come in quicker, there are no substances that have been approved or clearly demonstrated to increase the hair growth rate. However, if we think about how minoxodil (Rogaine) works, there is some evidence that it may make the hair grow a little bit faster because it increases the rate of cell division in the follicles.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. As Dr. Mercurio said, the hair that is most likely to fall out is the hair that tends to grow the fastest. The hair on top of your head grows faster than your eyebrows or your eyelashes. This means that some of the mild chemotherapies that produce mild hair loss tend to affect the hair on top of your head and may end up sparing your eyebrows or your eyelashes. Also, when some chemotherapy is given weekly, on a weekly basis, in small doses, rather than every 3 to 4 weeks in higher doses, some hair loss can be minimized. That is to say, the lower doses given more often tend to produce less hair loss. But once hair is lost, the time it takes for it to grow back in depends on how fast your body grows its hair.
- Mary Gail Mercurio The rate of hair growth is approximately 1/2 inch per month, so with that number in mind you can extrapolate to how long you will have the head of hair that you are hoping for.
- Ronda Gates, M.S., R.Ph. Beforehand, one of the things you can do is to try a new haircut that is shorter, one that essentially is a transition if you do lose all of your hair. It's a transition to the use of scarves and hats. It is a process of again being active in your own change.
- Mary Gail Mercurio Along those same lines, it tends to be less traumatic as the hair falls out and you find it on your pillow and combs if it is a shorter hair. So that's another reason that if you start with a shorter hair cut, you will have less fall out.
- Ronda Gates, M.S., R.Ph. The other thing that I've experienced is that some women have had the process of having their head sheared or shaved as a celebration of sorts as the process of their treatment instead of a negative statement. This is part of a treatment process, and is also done in groups with friends who share the hair shaving experience and the camaraderie of sisterhood, which is so important to the healing process.
- Mary Gail Mercurio Having the head shaved, it will be minimally apparent that this process is even taking place.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. There have been studies that have shown that losing your hair for many women is worse than losing a breast. This is because you can conceal the loss of a breast but hair loss is so obvious and apparent to people you care about and people you'd rather not fuss with, and who you'd rather not share your business with. One thing that helps, as our other guests have suggested, is to think of hair loss as a necessary transformation from where you are now: a person with a problem that you want to get rid of, to where you want to be, the same person, who is clear of this problem, and as healthy as possible. Many women feel uncomfortable going around bald. There are many solutions we will address tonight for how to deal with this.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called No Hair, New Hair, Skin Care featured Mary Gail Mercurio, M.D., Ronda Gates, M.S., R.Ph., and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions on the physical side effects of breast cancer treatment, and what you can do about them.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in August 2001.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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