Advice for dealing with hair loss?


Question from Phantom: I knew to expect hair loss, but I really wasn't prepared for how I'd feel about it - it's so obvious, and it's scaring my kids. Any advice for me, and other women who have to go through this?
Answers - Marisa Weiss, M.D. When it comes to the people in your life, including the children in your life, realize that hair loss can also be traumatic for them. I had a patient recently whose children and whose children's friends thought that my patient had a "hair disease." They didn't see or understand the whole breast cancer problem—all they could see was that she had lost her hair—so she overhead them talking about her having a disease of her hair. This was very interesting to me because sometimes the obvious things take on more significance than the things that are concealed.
Mary Gail Mercurio This goes back to a point we made earlier about how the hair loss often heralds to everyone around the patient that there is some problem whereas no one knew about the breast biopsy or the loss of the breast. This takes me back to Ronda's comments about being proactive. There are wonderful wigs out there now and they are incredibly naturally appearing. Many of my patients, even when their hair grows back, don't want to give up that wig because it makes their life so simple. They appreciate how natural it looks and they don't have to be concerned about their hair and can focus on other aspects of their life.
Ronda Gates, M.S., R.Ph. It is easy to put on a wig and go. Amazing how my friends have learned to simplify their lives. Another interesting point is that for the process of chemotherapy where hair loss is for a short period of time, there is not a need, in my opinion, of getting natural hair. Synthetic hair will work well for a short period of time. It is less expensive and can be styled any way you like, whether you mimic your natural hair or a new spectacular you.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. I agree that synthetic hair is a much better buy. It is very cheap. You can get a very good wig from Paula's Wigs for $50 that holds up throughout the 6-month period of time that you are without a good head of your hair. The human hair wigs, as Ronda said, are very expensive; they have price tags between $900 and $3,000. They look great in the beginning but they can look very shabby and lifeless after only a few months. Human hair needs natural oils to maintain its luster—when it is in a wig, it doesn't get those natural oils. I also recommend my patients choose a slightly lighter color than their own natural color. This is because the contrast is less harsh against your skin when you are going through chemotherapy and your complexion may be pale. At that time, a dark wig color can accentuate that contrast.
Mary Gail Mercurio Which is a nice way to lead into thinking about your complexion, because it does indeed lose some of its luster.
Ronda Gates, M.S., R.Ph. Consider again having a party of friends at a wig store, where all of you can try on a variety of wigs and again share an experience with your sisters.

On Wednesday, August 15, 2001, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called No Hair, New Hair, Skin Care. Mary Gail Mercurio, M.D., Ronda Gates, M.S., R.Ph., and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions on the physical side effects of breast cancer treatment, and what you can do about them.

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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