Breast cancer and hair loss

Many people will lose either some or all of their hair as a result of treatment for breast cancer. For some, this is the most distressing side effect of treatment.

The experience of hair loss, scalp and hair care and hair regrowth will be different for everyone. There are also differences according to European, Indian, African, Middle-Eastern and Asian hair types. Getting individual advice can be the most helpful. This may be from your breast care nurse a specialist organisations or supplier. We also list a number of organisations who supply headwear designed to meet the needs of people experiencing hair loss.

How you may feel

For many of us, the way we feel about ourselves is closely linked to the way we look, and so losing your hair can be devastating. You may feel angry and unhappy that this has happened in addition to your cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Some people tell us they feel guilty about being upset when they lose their hair as they feel there are other, more important things to worry about. There’s no right or wrong way to feel. Hair loss is such a visible side effect of treatment and can change how you look and view yourself.

In some cultures and religions hair has a particular significance. If hair has a special significance for you, losing it may affect your cultural identity as well as your body image or self-esteem, making it even more difficult to come to terms with.

Some people find that they adjust quickly to hair loss. For others, this can take longer, or they may always find it difficult to accept and adapt to. Some women find it’s not as bad as they expected.

If there’s a chance that you’ll lose your hair, your chemotherapy or breast care nurse will talk to you before treatment starts about what might happen. As well as talking about practical issues such as caring for your scalp or wearing a wig, you can also discuss your feelings about losing your hair and look at ways to help you adjust to it.

Each person will find their own way of dealing with hair loss, but it can be helpful to talk to others who have been through the same experience. You can call our free Support Line to be put in touch with someone who’s experienced hair loss and understands what you may be facing or read what other people say about it on our Forum. You may also meet other people having treatment at the hospital or at a breast cancer support group.

Find out about our HeadStrong service, which provides support and practical tips for people coping with hair loss after cancer treatment.

Last reviewed: Nov 2015
Next planned review is September 2016

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