Ways To Manage Hair Loss
Talk with your health care team about ways to manage before and after hair loss:
- Treat your hair gently. You may want to use a hairbrush with soft bristles or a wide-tooth comb. Do not use hair dryers, irons, or products such as gels or clips that may hurt your scalp. Wash your hair with a mild shampoo. Wash it less often and be very gentle. Pat it dry with a soft towel.
- You have choices. Some people choose to cut their hair short to make it easier to deal with when it starts to fall out. Others choose to shave their head. If you choose to shave your head, use an electric shaver so you wont cut yourself. If you plan to buy a wig, get one while you still have hair so you can match it to the color of your hair. If you find wigs to be itchy and hot, try wearing a comfortable scarf or turban.
- Protect and care for your scalp. Use sunscreen or wear a hat when you are outside. Choose a comfortable scarf or hat that you enjoy and that keeps your head warm. If your scalp itches or feels tender, using lotions and conditioners can help it feel better.
- Talk about your feelings. Many people feel angry, depressed, or embarrassed about hair loss. It can help to share these feelings with someone who understands. Some people find it helpful to talk with other people who have lost their hair during cancer treatment. Talking openly and honestly with your children and close family members can also help you all. Tell them that you expect to lose your hair during treatment.
Radiation Therapy And Fertility
You must use contraception during your treatment if youre sexually active and you or your partner could get pregnant. You should not conceive a child while youre getting radiation therapy to your pelvis and for 1 to 2 years after your treatment is finished. For more information, read the section Sexual health in this resource.
If you would like to have children after your radiation therapy, speak with your doctor before you begin your treatment.
How To Get Ready For Hair Loss
People are often most concerned about losing hair from their scalp because of chemo. Try these tips to prepare:
Get a short haircut or a shave. Think about cropping your hair short or shaving it off with an electric razor before you start noticing hair loss. It might be less stressful than finding clumps of hair on your pillow or in the shower drain.
Thinking about a wig? Start shopping before you start treatment. Youâll have more time and energy, and you may have an easier time finding a style and color thatâs similar to your current hair. Also find out whether your health insurance plan will pay some or all of the cost. It might be covered if your doctor writes a prescription for a âcranial prosthesis.â
Ask about a cooling cap. This is a device that you wear while you have chemo. It might lower your odds of losing hair. Researchers are still looking into how safe and effective it is, so talk to your doctor about whether it may be right for you. Cooling caps can have side effects like headaches, scalp pain, and discomfort in your neck and shoulders.
Talk to your loved ones. If your doctor says youâre likely to have hair loss, think about letting close friends and family members know. That way, you can give each other support if you need it.
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External Beam Radiation Therapy
One of the most common types of RT and doesnt cause any pain. Before the treatment starts, the radiation team will use your CT and MRI scans to locate the position of the prostate and tumor cells.
X-ray beams will be targeted toward the marked cancer areas during every treatment session. Oncologists manage the intensity of radiation beams and doses to maximize the radiation therapy results.
Proton Beam Radiation Therapy
Proton beam therapy focuses beams of protons instead of x-rays on the cancer. Unlike x-rays, which release energy both before and after they hit their target, protons cause little damage to tissues they pass through and release their energy only after traveling a certain distance. This means that proton beam radiation can, in theory, deliver more radiation to the prostate while doing less damage to nearby normal tissues. Proton beam radiation can be aimed with techniques similar to 3D-CRT and IMRT.
Although in theory proton beam therapy might be more effective than using x-rays, so far studies have not shown if this is true. Right now, proton beam therapy is not widely available. The machines needed to make protons are very expensive, and they arent available in many centers in the United States. Proton beam radiation might not be covered by all insurance companies at this time.
How Long Will The Consultation Take
Your initial visit with the radiation oncologist will take 1 to 1-1/2 hours. At this time, he or she will review your records and discuss treatment options. The risks, benefits, and alternatives to radiotherapy will also be discussed at this time. If desired, your spouse and/or family member may be present during your visit and may ask questions or take notes.
Is There Assistance For Transportation
Most patients drive their cars to UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, and parking is provided free of charge during the period of actual radiation treatment.
The American Cancer Society matches cancer patients who need rides to doctor appointments with volunteers who are willing to drive. The program, Road to Recovery, is free. Call for more information.
Social workers at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center also can help patients find transportation to their appointments. Please call for assistance. Our social workers can be reached from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except holidays.
Wheelchairs are available just inside the main entrance. Escorts are available on an on-call basis for patients who need help getting from their car to the Cancer Center. Please talk with the receptionist in the main lobby to check out a wheelchair or to call an escort. The receptionist can be reached at .
The UC Davis / UC Davis Medical Center Shuttle Service is a free service for patients, visitors, faculty, staff, students and other people affiliated with the University of California. This service runs Monday through Friday, from about 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., excluding university holidays. Shuttles are equipped with bike racks. All of our shuttles are wheelchair-accessible.
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If Youre Having Radiation Therapy To The Pelvis
Radiation therapy to the pelvis can cause side effects such as:
- Bladder problems
- Fertility problems
- Changes in your sex life
You might also have some of the same problems people get from radiation to the abdomen, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.
Radiation to the pelvis can cause problems with urination, including:
- Pain or burning sensations
- Blood in the urine
- An urge to urinate often
Most of these problems get better over time, but radiation therapy can cause longer-term side effects as well:
- Radiation cystitis. If the radiation damages the lining of the bladder, radiation cystitis can be a long-term problem that causes blood in the urine or pain when passing urine.
- Urinary incontinence. Radiation treatments for certain cancers, such as prostate and bladder cancer, may make you unable to control your urine or have leakage or dribbling. There are different types and degrees of incontinence, but it can be treated. Even if incontinence cant be corrected completely, it can still be helped. See Bladder and Bowel Incontinence to learn more. This side effect is most often a problem for men being treated for prostate cancer, but some of the information might also be helpful for women dealing with treatment-related incontinence.
Preparing For Your Simulation
During your simulation, you will be lying down. If you think you will be uncomfortable lying still you can take acetaminophen or your usual pain medication 1 hour before your simulation. If you think you may get anxious during your procedure, speak with your doctor about whether medication may be helpful.
Most people can eat and drink before their simulation. If you need to stop eating or drinking before your simulation, your doctor will let you know.
Wear comfortable clothes that are easy to take off because you may need to change into a hospital gown. Do not wear jewelry, powders, or lotions.
To help pass the time, your radiation therapists can play music for you. If youd like, you can bring a CD of your own from home.
Some people will need to have a positron emission tomography-computed tomography scan done during the simulation. If you are having one, your nurse will give you detailed instructions to prepare you for the scan. Some people are allergic to intravenous contrast . If you are, your nurse will tell you what to do.
If youre having a PET-CT scan, dont eat or drink anything except water for 6 hours before your appointment time. This includes gum, hard candy, cough drops, and mints. If you have had anything except water, your PET-CT scan may need to be rescheduled.
Remove devices from your skin
The manufacturer recommends taking these devices off your skin before your simulation or treatment:
- Continuous glucose monitor
What To Do If You Lose Hair
These tips can help you protect your head, minimize hair loss, and manage stress:
Shield your scalp. Put broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF on any bald spots. On cold days, protect your scalp from dry air with a hat or scarf.
Groom gently. Your scalp might be extra sensitive to combing, bushing, and washing. Consider using a brush with soft bristles or a wide-toothed comb. Donât brush too much or pull your hair back in tight styles like braids or ponytails. Skip blow dryers, rollers, and curling or flat irons, too. Use a mild shampoo when you wash your hair, and then pat dry. Try to wash your hair less often than you used to.
Wear a hair net in bed. If you decide not to cut or shave your hair off, the net can keep it from falling out in clumps while you sleep. A satin pillowcase may help, too.
Get support if you need it. Hair is very personal to many people. Donât bottle your feelings up. Confide in close friends or loved ones. You can also talk with a cancer support group. Itâs a good way to meet people whoâve also lost hair during treatment and who understand what youâre going through.
Weekly Visits During Your Treatment
Your radiation oncologist and radiation nurse will see you each week to talk with you about any concerns, ask about any side effects you may be having, and answer your questions. This visit will be before or after your treatments each ________________. You should plan to be at your appointment for about 1 extra hour on those days.
If you need to speak with your radiation oncologist or radiation nurse any time between your weekly visits, call your radiation oncologists office or ask the support staff or your radiation therapists to contact them when you come in for treatment.
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Day Of Your Simulation
You may need to drink 1 glass of water 1 hour before your simulation and on each day of your treatment. This will make your bladder full and will move your small intestine away from the area receiving radiation. Your radiation oncologist or nurse will tell you if you need to do this.
Once you arrive
A member of your radiation therapy team will check you in. You will be asked to state and spell your full name and birth date many times. This is for your safety. People with the same or similar name may be having care on the same day as you.
You will be greeted by your radiation therapist. They will take a photograph of your face. This picture will be used to identify you throughout your treatment.
Your radiation therapist will then explain the simulation to you. If you havent already signed a consent form, your radiation oncologist will review everything with you, and ask for your signature.
- Orally . You will drink about 1 cup of liquid contrast. This helps us see your small intestine on the simulation x-rays that will be taken later.
- Through a vein, if you are not allergic.
- Through your rectum or bladder. A soft rubber catheter will be inserted into your rectum or bladder. About 1 cup of contrast will be injected into the catheter. You will have a cloth under you to absorb any liquid that may spill out.
You may also have a catheter inserted into your rectum to remove air. This will help your radiation therapist see your rectum on the scan.
Change Your Shampoo And Conditioner
Also, use all-natural and extra-gentle shampoo and conditioner. Our GRO Revitalizing Shampoo & Conditioner and GRO+ Advanced Replenishing Shampoo & Conditioner and conditioner are formulated to optimize your scalps health while leaving out synthetic and harsh chemicals like sulfates, silicones, parabens, gluten and artificial fragrances.
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What Side Effects Occur With Radiation Therapy To The Pelvis
If you are having radiation therapy to any part of the pelvis , you might have one or more of the digestive problems already described. You also may have some irritation to your bladder. This can cause discomfort or frequent urination. Drinking fluids can help relieve some of your discomfort. Your doctor can prescribe medication to deal with these problems.
There are also certain side effects that occur only in the reproductive organs. The effects of radiation therapy on sexual and reproductive functions depend on which organs are treated. Some of the more common side effects for both men and women do not last long after treatment. Others may be long-term or permanent. Before your treatment begins, ask your doctor about possible side effects and how long they might last.
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Will Side Effects Limit My Activities
Not necessarily, says Yale Medicine radiation oncologist Lynn Wilson, MD, who is the chair of Therapeutic Radiology and a professor of therapeutic radiology at Yale School of Medicine. It will depend on what side effects you experienceand how severe they are. Many patients are able to go to work, keep house, and enjoy leisure activities while they are receiving radiation therapy. Others find that they need more rest than usual and therefore cannot do as much. You should try to do the things you enjoy, as long as you dont become too tired. Your doctor may suggest that you limit activities that might irritate the area being treated. In most cases, you can have sexual relations if you wish. However, your desire for physical intimacy may be lower because radiation therapy may cause you to feel more tired than usual.
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Questions To Ask Your Radiation Oncologist
Before your appointment, its helpful to write down the questions you want to ask your radiation therapy care team. Examples of questions you can ask are listed below. Write down the answers during your appointment so you can review them later.
What kind of radiation therapy will I get?
How many radiation treatments will I get?
What side effects should I expect during my radiation therapy?
Will these side effects go away after I finish my radiation therapy?
What kind of late side effects should I expect after my radiation therapy?
If Youre Getting Radiation Therapy To The Breast
If you have radiation to the breast, it can affect your heart or lungs as well causing other side effects.
Short-term side effects
Radiation to the breast can cause:
- Skin irritation, dryness, and color changes
- Breast soreness
- Breast swelling from fluid build-up
To avoid irritating the skin around the breasts, try to go without wearing a bra. If this isnt possible, wear a soft cotton bra without underwires.
If your shoulders feel stiff, ask your cancer care team about exercises to keep your shoulder moving freely.
Breast soreness, color changes, and fluid build-up will most likely go away a month or 2 after you finish radiation therapy. If fluid build-up continues to be a problem, ask your cancer care team what steps you can take. See Lymphedema for more information.
Long-term changes to the breast
Radiation therapy may cause long-term changes in the breast. Your skin may be slightly darker, and pores may be larger and more noticeable. The skin may be more or less sensitive and feel thicker and firmer than it was before treatment. Sometimes the size of your breast changes it may become larger because of fluid build-up or smaller because of scar tissue. These side effects may last long after treatment.
After about a year, you shouldnt have any new changes. If you do see changes in breast size, shape, appearance, or texture after this time, tell your cancer care team about them right away.
Less common side effects in nearby areas
Side effects of brachytherapy
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Tips For Managing Hair Loss
- If you are having radiation therapy to your head or scalp area, think about cutting your hair short before treatment starts. Some people say this gives them a sense of control.
- Wear a wig, hairpiece or leave your head bare. Do whatever feels comfortable and makes you feel confident.
- Protect your scalp against sunburn and the cold with a hat, beanie, turban or scarf.
- If you plan to wear a wig, choose it before treatment starts so you can match it to your own hair colour and style. For more information about wig services, call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
- Ask your hairdresser or barber how to style your hair. It may be thinner, or curly when it was once straight, and the new growth may be patchy for a while.
- Contact the Look Good Feel Better program. It helps people manage the appearance-related side effects caused by cancer treatment. Workshops are run for adults and teenagers.