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A patient wearing a head scarf and her daughter

If you’re about to begin breast cancer treatment, you may be wondering about the possibility of losing your hair. Hair loss can be difficult to predict, even among patients who receive the same therapy. For the most accurate information on what to expect in your unique situation, you are encouraged to talk with your treatment team.

In general, if you receive certain chemotherapy medications, you may lose some or all of the hair on your head. That’s because the chemo medications may damage some of your hair follicles as they work to destroy your breast cancer. Most likely, if you lose your hair, it will gradually fall out in clumps as you brush or shampoo it. Depending on the specific medications you receive, you may also temporarily lose your eyebrows and eyelashes, as well as the hair on your arms, legs and pubic area.

How to minimize the effects of hair loss during breast cancer treatment

Because hair loss is often a noticeable aspect of breast cancer and its treatment, it can be upsetting. As you focus on fighting your cancer, keep in mind that the primary goal of your treatment is to enhance your outcome and quality of life. Additionally, you should remember that your hair will likely grow back eventually. In the meantime, here are some things you can do that may make your hair loss less of a worry for you:

  • If you are interested in wearing a wig, purchase one before your breast cancer treatment begins. That way, it will be easier to match your natural hair color and texture (if desired). Try on several styles until you find one that you like. Keep in mind that the cost of your "cranial prosthesis" may be partially or fully covered by your health insurance.
  • Consider wearing a soft scarf or hat as an alternative to a wig. Look for cotton fabrics, which tend to stay on a smooth scalp better – and feel more comfortable – than synthetics.
  • Be gentle with your hair. Avoid brushing, pulling, braiding, dyeing, perming and heat styling.
  • Consider getting a short, easy-to-style haircut – or even shaving your head – before your hair starts to fall out.

Medically reviewed by Aixa Soyano Muller, MDBreast Oncology Program.

To learn more about breast cancer treatment and hair loss, contact Moffitt Cancer Center. You can request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. No referrals are required.