Cancer affects people of all ages and all backgrounds. It can be a devastating illness for both the ones affected and their loved ones.
If your child has cancer, it can be very difficult for all of you. When the chemotherapy starts, your child might experience cancer treatment related hair loss.
Because this website is dedicated to hair loss, we will try walk you through the hair loss in children’s cancer treatment. Going through cancer treatment does not mean your child will certainly experience hair loss. There are some chemotherapy drugs that do not cause hair loss. How your child is psychologically affected by their hair loss depends on their age. Very young children may not feel that their hair loss is important. If your child is a teenager, they might find their hair loss very devastating.
If your child is diagnosed with cancer, talk to the health professionals about your options of treatment, and how they will impact your child’s hair. It is best to be prepared beforehand, prepare your child, if they are old enough to understand, for the possible outcomes of their treatment. In most cases, after chemotherapy ends, the child’s hair grows back – up to a year. Your child may experience a change in color and texture which is often temporary.
Symptoms of Hair Loss in Children’s Cancer Treatment
Hair loss in chemotherapy differs from person to person. Some will experience hair loss after their first or second sessions of chemotherapy. Some others will only experience thinning in the beginning. It is good to be aware that, in most cases there will be hair loss.
Treatment of Hair Loss in Children Who Receive Cancer Treatment
If your child is likely to experience hair loss due to their cancer treatment, you can take a few actions to make the process more comfortable for them and yourself. Wearing a hairpiece during one’s cancer treatment is often a good solution to cover up the temporary baldness.
For your child to have a natural looking wig, it is best to take their picture before their treatment. This will help the wig stylist to design the wig for your child. Keep a piece of your child’s hair before their hair loss starts. This is for finding the best wig for them which matches their hair color and texture.
Ask your doctor if your national health insurance or private insurance (depending on which country you live in and which options you have available) covers a prescription wig. If so, ask your doctor to prescribe one for your child. Also, make sure you consult with your child’s health team regarding a good place to purchase a wig.
Do not be alarmed if some wigs do not look good. They need professional styling, and should fit perfectly. Discuss your options with the wig expert: a synthetic wig or a natural wig, more expensive or less expensive one, which color, which texture?
If your health insurance does not cover the prosthesis cost, consult with your doctor. They may be able to recommend you some institutions and organizations which can help you get a free or low cost wig for your child.
Hats and Other Accessories
Wearing a short haircut before the treatment starts can be a good idea. Encourage your child to try different head or hair accessories such as scarfs and hats or bandannas. Let your child choose the accessory to cover their head. Let them feel joyful so that the whole process will be easier for them. They should feel comfortable in their new look.
Join and attend any support groups for children with cancer, and their families. Ask your health team regarding the available ones in your area. Talking with other cancer affected children can help your child. Try to find a group with children in the same age range. Fellow families will understand and support you, and together you can overcome this illness.
After the Hair Loss
It is normal that not everyone knows what happens during chemotherapy. Let those who matter to you know about what to expect such as other family members, neighbor’s your child’s teachers and school administration, and your child’s friends’ families. This will minimize the reaction when they see your child without hair.
Be gentle with your child’s hair during and after their treatment. Do not style it with high heat styling tool – try not to blow dry it. Wash your child’s hair less than you used to. Use very gentle hair care products – if possible baby shampoos and products. The sun is very dangerous for our skin. Remember to apply sunblock to the scalp, or encourage your child to wear a hat to cover their head when outside.
Chemicals damage our hair. It is best to stop any coloring processes during chemotherapy.
Protect your child’s head from any traumas and injuries – strenuous activities can be dangerous and should be done with caution.
You can manage this phase of your child’s life well by supporting them. Answer their questions as openly as possible, it is normal to be puzzled. Talk to the specialists about any possible questions, and along the way if you have any questions.
Your child might be wondering when their hair loss will start, and whether their treatment will cause partial or whole loss. Address these questions to your health team. Also, ask about the health insurance coverage for a wig, and when your child’s hair is going to grow back.
Remember: wearing hats can be fun, and spending time with other families and children is a great way to receive natural support. This is a temporary phase in your child’s life, and they will get their full head back.