Hair Loss with Cancer

Hair loss is a common side effect of cancer-fighting drugs and radiation therapy.

Hair loss usually starts a week or more after treatment begins. It may be a slow process that takes a month or more. First, you may notice more hair on your pillow or on your child's pillow in the morning or more hair on the comb after combing. Then the hair falls out more quickly.

  • In most cases your hair or your child's hair will grow back shortly after treatment stops.
  • Patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia usually grow their hair back during maintenance therapy.
  • Your or your child's eyebrows and eyelashes may or may not get thin and/or fall out.
  • When the hair does grow back, it may be a different color or texture.
  • In some cases, especially with radiation therapy, the hair may not grow back where the radiation was received.
  • You and/or your child might decide on a shorter hair style before the hair begins to fall out. This can make the adjustment to the hair loss easier.
  • You and/or your child might choose some type of head covering to hide the loss of hair, or choose to wear no head covering at all. Head covering choices may include a baseball hat, scarf, wig or turban. A head covering should be worn while outside to prevent sunburn.
  • If you have questions about a wig, ask a social worker or Child Life specialist. There are many companies that make wigs. Some companies may send someone to the hospital to talk to you and/or your child about the styles available and the prices. If possible, it is best for the stylist to see your or your child's hair before it comes out. The cost of wigs depends upon the style. You will need to check with your insurance company to see what part, if any, of the cost will be covered.
  • This can be a difficult time for you and/or your child. There are books and other resources available to help adjust to hair loss. If you need help, ask your or your child's doctor or nurse. 

Last Updated 10/2015