Hair loss happens for many cancer patients when chemotherapy drugs travel through their bodies to kill cancer cells. Hair loss is difficult to predict--some patients have it, and others don’t. Hair loss related to chemotherapy usually occurs two weeks after treatment starts and worsens after one to two months. The scalp may be extra sensitive during this time, according to the American Cancer Society. Hair often starts to regrow on its own before therapy is finished. Many patients, however, seek products that will promote quicker hair growth.
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The drug approved by the Federal Drug Administration for pattern hair loss is used by some people before and during chemotherapy. Using minoxidil, commonly known as Rogaine, is unlikely to prevent hair loss but may speed hair regrowth, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, the clinic cautions that more research is needed to verify whether minoxidil truly is effective in regrowing hair after treatment.
Cancer Research UK advises using gentle hair care products, such as baby shampoo and sulfite-free shampoo, to encourage hair regrowth. Also, use oil and moisturizers if your scalp itches or flakes instead of dandruff shampoo because these are most likely indicators of a dry scalp in cancer patients.
Encourage re-growth with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, advises nutritionist Andrew Weil. Supplement your diet with GLA, or gamma-linolenic acid, by taking black currant oil or evening primrose oil. These omega-6 products are available at health food stores in capsules or soft gels. Take 500 milligrams of either one twice daily. Results will take six to eight weeks. The best way to gain omega-3 fatty acids is by consuming them via fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines or herring, twice weekly. Cancer patients also may try freshly ground flax seeds. Use 2 tablespoons a day. Supplements also are available in the form of flax oil or fish oil. Patients should follow product guidelines for taking these omega-3 supplements.
Herbal products are used by some to promote hair growth. These should be approached with caution, however. Such products are not FDA tested and don’t often undergo official, published scientific scrutiny. The products are advertised as safe to use. However, it’s possible that some herbal hair loss products have side effects that have not yet been studied. They also may have possible interactions with some drugs.