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Methods to prevent chemotherapy-induced alopecia exist, although their safety and effectiveness remain questionable. One method puts pressure on the scalp (scalp tourniquet) to block blood flow, thereby preventing the drugs from damaging the hair follicles. Another method uses ice or cooling devices (scalp hypothermia) to decrease the amount of drug taken up by the hair cells. Lastly, certain medications have been used to prevent alopecia.
Alopecia resulting from cancer treatment is unavoidable and no treatments for it are available. Patients are encouraged to buy a wig before their hair falls out so that a good color and texture match can be made and the wig will be available when needed. Patients with long hair can have a wig made with their own hair. If a wig is covered
Things that a cancer patient can do to treat an irritated and red scalp and minimize hair loss include:
Patients suffering from alopecia may benefit from taking certain vitamins and minerals that promote healthy hair. These include zinc, selenium, magnesium, iron; and vitamins A, B-complex, C, and E. Vitamin E may be massaged into the scalp. Also, evening primrose oil and flaxseed oil are rich sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are important for healthy hair.
Chinese medicinal herbs that promote hair growth include cornus, Chinese foxglove root, Chinese yam, lycium fruit, and polygonum. Herbalists recommend rinsing hair with sage tea or massaging the scalp with essential oil of rosemary to improve blood circulation and stimulate hair follicles.
It is important that patients check with their oncologist prior to taking any vitamin, mineral, or medicinal herb supplements as there is a possibility they may interfere with the effectiveness of the chemotherapy treatments.
De Vita, Vincent, Samuel Hellman, and Steven Rosenberg, eds. Cancer, Principles & Practice of Oncology, 6th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2000. <http://www.LWWoncology.com>
Maleskey, Gale. Nature's Medicines: from Asthma to Weight Gain, from Colds to High Cholesterol—The Most Powerful All-Natural Cures. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, Inc., 1999.
Somerville, Robert, ed. The Medical Advisor. Alexandria, VA:Time-Life Books, 2000.
Yarbro, Connie Henke, Michelle Goodman, Margaret Hansen Frogge, and Susan L. Groenwald, eds. Cancer Nursing, Principles and Practice, 5th ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2000.
Yarbro, Connie Henke, Margaret Hansen Frogge, and Michelle Goodman, eds. Cancer Symptom Management, 2nd ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 1999.
Dorr, Victoria J. "A Practitioner's Guide to Cancer-Related Alopecia." Seminars in Oncology 25, no. 5 (October 1998): 526-570.
"How Do I Deal With Hair Loss?" American Cancer Society, Inc. 2000. 28 June 2001 <http://www3.cancer.org/cancerinfo>.
Belinda Rowland, Ph.D.
Author Info: Belinda Rowland Ph.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Cancer, 2002This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
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