Waxing makes your skin loose

Caring for hair and nails in breast cancer

  1. Why does hair fall out during cancer treatment?
  2. Am I losing all my hair?
  3. How do I deal with the loss of my hair?
  4. How do I take care of my hair and scalp during therapy?
  5. Will my hair grow back after the treatment?
  6. What can i do to support hair growth?
  7. What are the consequences of cancer treatment for skin and nails?
  8. How do I protect my skin and nails during treatment?
  9. What can I do to ensure that my nails grow back healthy and strong?
  10. Where can I find advice and help?

1. Why does hair fall out during cancer treatment?

Chemotherapy works on rapidly growing and frequently dividing cells. In this way, the so-called cytostatics destroy tumor cells and prevent the cancer from spreading further. However, the drugs also damage other healthy cells that are dividing quickly. These include, for example, the hair root cells. Usually hair grows about 0.3 millimeters a day. 85 percent of all cells in the hair roots are in the particularly sensitive growth phase.

Hair loss begins two to four weeks after the start of therapy. Whether and to what extent the hair falls out depends on the substances used, the dosage and the disposition of the patient. The hair loss is only visible to outsiders when more than half of the hair has fallen out.

OUR TIP: Talk to your doctor about the effects of chemotherapy on your hair and nails before starting treatment so that you know what to expect in this regard.

Unfortunately, when the above factors come together, there is no way to prevent hair loss. Methods such as so-called "scalp cooling" are extremely controversial. Cold hoods are designed to cool the scalp and reduce blood flow to such an extent that the hair follicles are less sensitive to the medication. However, this could partially cancel out the positive effect of the cytostatics.

Radiation therapy also aims to destroy cancer cells. In the process, healthy cells are also damaged, but only in the irradiated area. With breast cancer, there is therefore no risk that radiation will lead to hair loss. Modern cancer therapies * can cause structural damage and partial hair loss.

2. Am I losing all of my hair?

As already explained under question 1, whether eyelashes, eyebrows or pubic hair fall out depends on the type of chemotherapy, the treatment regimen and the individual predisposition. Your attending doctor will also be able to tell you this in advance. If the body hair is affected, eyelashes and eyebrows usually fall out a little later than the hair on the head.

3. How do I deal with the loss of my hair?

A hairless head radically changes the reflection. You will have to get used to this in the time to come. Careful clarification before starting therapy will help you deal with the problem and learn to accept your changed appearance as a result of the disease.

Many women have their hair cut short before chemotherapy in order to make the upcoming change as well as the later transition to regrowth less noticeable. If you want a wig, it is advisable to have it prescribed for you in good time.

OUR TIP: It is best to buy the wig before the start of therapy so that it can be adapted to your hair color and hair structure. Professional advice in a corresponding specialist shop is an advantage. Here you will also find information on the respective advantages and disadvantages of human and synthetic hair wigs as well as tips for their care. Both variants are available in different quality and price classes and can be styled according to your ideas.

Ask your health insurance company whether and to what extent they will cover the cost of a wig.

If the first hair falls out after a few weeks, many cancer patients bravely reach for the razor. For most, this radical step is less painful than the gradual loss of their hair. You have to find out for yourself which path is right for you.

More and more women are deciding against a wig, which can be very warm, especially in summer. Colorful and varied alternatives are caps, hats and hats as well as scarves in different colors and patterns that can be tied in a variety of ways. Some women tackle the consequences of their cancer aggressively and venture topless in public.

OUR TIP: In addition to numerous books on this subject, you will find video instructions on the various techniques of tying shawls and scarves on the Internet.

The loss of eyelashes and eyebrows outweighs the loss of hair on the scalp. Since these largely determine facial expressions and facial expressions, many women experience their absence as traumatic. Both can, however, be concealed through the skilful use of make-up - with the help of eyeliner, powder, kohl and eyebrow pencil, eyelashes and eyebrows can be made up or indicated with fine lines or dots.

4. How do I take care of my hair and scalp during therapy?

During chemotherapy, the hair and scalp require special and above all gentle care. This applies equally to partial and complete hair loss. Just as the scalp is extremely sensitive due to sudden hair loss, the hair that does not fall out is extremely dry due to the medication and threatens to break off at the hair root.

Here's the best way to take care of your hair and scalp during treatment:

  • It is best to use a mild and unscented shampoo, such as a baby shampoo, to wash your hair and scalp.
  • Don't wash your hair too often.
  • Avoid rubbing your hair dry. Just dab the towel over your head to prevent the hair from breaking off.
  • Do not use the hot blow dryer and let your hair air dry.
  • Use a soft hairbrush.
  • Color and perm are taboo during chemotherapy and in the first few months afterwards.
  • Protect your scalp from direct sunlight. Use sunscreen or wear a towel or cap.
  • Keep your head warm in the cold.
  • Sleep on soft pillowcases.
  • Take care of your scalp with an unscented cream or oil if it is dry and itchy.

Since the risk of infection and bleeding is increased during chemotherapy and / or radiation therapy, you should be very careful when removing make-up from your eyes and other make-up. Change washcloths and towels every day and remove your make-up particularly thoroughly.

5. Will my hair grow back after the treatment?

In 99 percent of all cancer patients, hair grows back after chemotherapy. Since the hair follicles are not destroyed, hair growth starts again about three months after the end of the treatment. The hair structure can be changed at first, but usually returns to normal after a while. In very rare cases, permanent hair loss can occur. Body hair such as eyelashes, eyebrows and pubic hair take a little longer to grow back.

OUR TIP: In self-help groups and forums on the Internet, hair growth is a top priority for many cancer patients. Here, those affected exchange ideas and comfort each other when the hair does not grow back as quickly as the treatment team or medical advisors have predicted. With some, the hair sprouts again after two weeks, with others the first fluff does not appear on the head until after six months. Be patient!

6. What can I do to support hair growth?

Hair grows about an inch per month. This process cannot be accelerated. It also doesn't help to keep trimming your hair to make it stronger. The hair grows from the root and not at the tip. Patience is primarily required in this phase.

However, there are a few ways to encourage healthy hair growth. A balanced diet and avoidance of stress are certainly part of it.

Shampoos and tinctures that are supposed to promote blood circulation to the scalp are not recommended from a medical point of view. After all, chemotherapy is supposed to have exactly the opposite effect, namely to inhibit blood flow and vascular growth. Circulatory stimulants would be counterproductive here, especially since it has not yet been researched whether the increased blood flow does not transport the cytostatics or even the tumor cells to this point. For a similar reason there has been a move away from giving cancer patients high doses of vitamin C or vitamin E during chemotherapy. As radical scavengers, this is exactly what they shouldn't do in the context of cancer treatment - in chemotherapy, the formation of free radicals is desired in order to kill the tumor cells.

In contrast, vitamin H plays an important role in the renewal and quality of hair and nails. Involved in many metabolic processes in the body, vitamin H promotes the build-up of keratin - the main component of hair and nails - and strengthens their structure. In the case of hair, biotin, as it is also called, improves the quality of the hair and supports the formation of more hair strands, which makes the hair thicker. However, a high dose of vitamin H, as it would be necessary for the desired effect, is not possible either through diet or food supplements. This is only possible with medicines that you can get in the pharmacy.

OUR TIP: Since vitamin H only affects hair that grows back, it is advisable to start an appropriate course of treatment during chemotherapy (e.g. vitamin H from BIO-H-TIN).

Otherwise, for the first few months after the end of chemotherapy, the same recommendations for hair care that also apply during therapy apply (see question 4).

OUR TIP: Eyelashes and eyebrows grow back faster if you use mascara that contains prostaglandin (e.g. RevitaLash Advanced, Hairplus from FaceEvolution, Aphro Celina from Attractive Skin).

7. What are the consequences of cancer treatment for skin and nails?

Chemotherapy and radiation often make the skin drier, more sensitive, and more prone to infection. The visible consequence of radiation therapy is reddening of the skin, similar to sunburn. During this time you should not expose your skin to UV radiation. Certain chemotherapy drugs, which are also used to treat breast cancer, can cause what is known as hand and foot syndrome. This refers to inflammatory skin changes on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.

The most common symptoms of hand-foot syndrome are:

  • tingle
  • Swelling
  • Burning and itching
  • Dandruff
  • deafness
  • Hypersensitivity to heat

If you experience the above symptoms, please inform your treatment team immediately, who will usually adjust the dose and initiate local treatment of the affected areas of the skin. In the following chapter you will find out what you can do yourself to avoid or alleviate hand-foot syndrome.

Irritation of the mucous membranes in the mouth, digestive tract and genital area is not to be expected as part of breast cancer therapy. This can lead to changes in the nails, which can range from discoloration and transverse grooves to the peeling of the nail plates. This is painful, makes it difficult to grasp and carries an increased risk of infection. The affected patients suffer greatly from the nail reactions, as these can hardly be concealed.

8. How do I protect my skin and nails during the treatment?

In order not to put additional strain on your skin during chemotherapy and / or radiation, you should consider the following care tips:

  • Avoid hot baths, rather take a shower - lukewarm!
  • Avoid body cleansers that contain harsh surfactants.
  • Use high-quality care products that ideally have been dermatologically tested.
  • If contact with the sun cannot be avoided, use a sunscreen with a high sun protection factor.
  • In order to avoid additional irritation to the skin, it is best to wear loose-fitting clothing made of soft materials and avoid jewelry if it should be safe.
  • Avoid going to the swimming pool during radiation therapy. Not only does chlorinated water - like salt water - irritate the skin, there are also all sorts of infections lurking in swimming pools. You should not expose yourself to this danger.

Even if special skin reactions such as hand-foot syndrome are caused by changes in the skin tissue, external factors can promote the occurrence of the syndrome. By avoiding contact with certain materials and properly caring for your skin, you can prevent the discomfort or at least alleviate the symptoms.

In addition to the above tips, you should consider the following advice and avoid the corresponding burdens:

  • Wear thick cotton socks and comfortable shoes.
  • When doing housework, avoid contact with detergents, detergents and cleaning agents. If this cannot be avoided, protect your hands with rubber gloves.
  • Do not open screw caps on glasses and bottles with your bare hands. Use an opening aid for screw caps.
  • Avoid going to the sauna and all sports that make you sweat profusely.
  • Don't rub yourself off after showering, just pat yourself dry.

OUR TIP: Let your treatment team advise you, including on the subject of scar care, if you have had an operation.

In the case of nail changes, careful and careful nail care is essential to preserve stressed fingernails and toenails. In particular, the chemotherapeutic agents that are prescribed as standard for breast cancer can lead to severe damage to the nails and even to the peeling of the nail plate. During the treatment, you should cut your nails as short as possible and take care not to tear or break them. The cuticle should not be cut, just gently pushed back. Artificial nails are taboo during chemotherapy. However, many cancer patients have had good experiences with a gel coating that strengthens and protects the nails. In this way, crumbly and loosening nails are held in place by the gel layer and the healthy nail can grow back. To strengthen the nails, we recommend taking vitamin H (see question 9).

OUR TIP: If you want to have your nails strengthened with gel, it is best to entrust your hands to professionals. Many cosmetic and nail salons are geared towards cancer patients. Before the treatment, the nail is cleaned and disinfected. Make sure that high-quality materials are used. The gel cover grows out within four weeks and then has to be refilled.

9. What can I do to ensure that my nails grow back healthy and strong?

Until the nails grow back as healthy and strong as they were before chemotherapy, those affected need a lot of patience. Often fingernails and toenails are severely impaired not only during the three to four months of treatment, but also for a few weeks or months afterwards. In some cases, the nails initially become soft, thin and brittle and only partially or completely peel off after the treatment has ended. However, like the hair, the nails usually recover within a few months of stopping the cytotoxic drugs.

In order to reduce the nail brittleness and improve the quality of the regrowing nail, a high dose of vitamin H is also recommended here. Since visible damage cannot be repaired, it is best to start a corresponding cure during chemotherapy. Studies have shown that taking 2.5 mg of vitamin H daily leads to a significant improvement in nail quality in 90 percent of all cases.

Due to the accelerated cell growth, sick and broken nails grow out faster, while at the same time the growth of healthy nails and hair is supported.

10. Where can I find advice and help?

  • Breast Cancer Germany e.V. - Prognosis Life, Lise-Meitner- Str. 7, 85662 Hohenbrunn, Tel.: 089/41619800, www.brustkrebsdeutschland.de; Here you can also download the brochure "Breast Cancer and Hair Loss"
  • German Cancer Research Center, Im Neuenheimer Feld 280, 69120 Heidelberg, Tel.: 06221/420, www.dkfz.de
  • German Cancer Society, Kuno-Fischer-Str. 8, 14057 Berlin, Tel.: 030/32293290, www.krebsgesellschaft.de; Here you will find PDF brochures on breast cancer and information on the topic of "Cancer and Beauty"
  • German Cancer Aid e.V., Buschstr. 32, 53113 Bonn, Tel.: 0228/729900, www.krebshilfe.de
  • Women's self-help after cancer e.V., online counseling, "House of Cancer Self-Help", Thomas-Mann-Str. 40, 53111 Bonn, Tel.: 0228 / 33889-400, www.frauenselbsthilfe.de
  • Cancer information service, an offer from the German Cancer Research Center, Tel.: 0800/4203040, www.krebsinformationsdienst.de
  • Mamma Mia! The breast cancer magazine, Tel.: 06173/3242858, www.mammamia-online.de
  • mamazone - Women and Research Against Breast Cancer eV, non-profit association of women suffering from breast cancer, doctors and scientists (there are currently regional groups in 13 German cities), Postfach 310220, 86063 Augsburg, Tel.: 0821 / 5213-144 , www.mamazone. de
  • Certified breast cancer centers, list of the German Cancer Society, www.oncomap.de, under "Center" select: "Breast cancer center", select / enter the desired location