by Amalia Ruggiero
Your Health Source April/06
Approximately 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer during their life, according to Canadian Cancer Statistics 2005. Women of all ages with all types of cancer reveal that cancer and its treatment are life-changing experiences significantly affecting women’s lives. The Harris 2003, survey indicates that 83 percent of women, who experience changes in appearance associated with treatments, find that their overall quality of life was impacted in both the workforce and home because of such changes as hair loss and skin discoloration.
Cancer treatment affects a woman’s day-to-day life in many important ways, including her physical, emotional and social well-being. Often changes in physical appearance will frame a woman’s outlook on life during treatment. In Fact, 86 percent of women say that looking good helps them to feel better, and seven in ten women feel that keeping up their appearance gives them more confidence to cope with cancer.
Understanding Hair Loss From Cancer Treatments
The loss of hair, partial or complete, is one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and it is considered by the majority of women as the most physically and emotionally devastating side effects of cancer therapy. Many women feel that the loss of hair is as difficult to deal with as the diagnosis of cancer.
Choosing the right wig can be a difficult decision. It is important to visit a wig shop that offers complete privacy and individual attention and with staff, that has experience and understanding dealing with women with cancer.
If possible, before she looses her hair, she should visit a wig shop. This way, the hair alternative technician can match the colour, texture and style of her hair and have her look 95% like herself. A private room can provide a more comfortable atmosphere for trying on a selection of wigs. This is not the time to change hair colour or style dramatically. If she is not able to visit the wig shop prior to loosing her hair, then she can save some hair to match colour and bring a recent photo of herself. It can be helpful to have a friend, sister, mom or husband along for support
Wigs have come a long way in terms of comfort, style and versatility. They are now constructed with lightweight fibers that are soft and silky. Styled with highlights or low lights and available in a wide range of colours, they easily resemble real hair. The hair alternative specialist can customize the wig by trimming where necessary and adjusting the cap size for a secure fit. For the chemotherapy or radiation patient, the wig should be adjusted only after the hair loss has occurred.
Synthetic wigs, or a blend of synthetic and human hair are a better choice of wigs when undergoing treatments. The modacrylic fibers are virtually indistinguishable from human hair and they are easily styled and cleansed allowing for simple home maintenance and are not as expensive as human hair wigs. Synthetic wigs are heat sensitive. The major enemy is the quick opening of an oven door or barbecue lid. Sleeping with your wig is not recommended.
Alternative head covering such as sleep caps, scarves and hats are perfect as an alternative to wigs. There will be times in the day when other types of head coverings are a better choice. Hair helps to regulate body temperature and especially at night, it may feel too cool without any head covering. Experimenting with headwraps and scarves can complement her looks, enhance her style and add versatility to her wardrobe.
Loss of hair is considered by most company’s insurance policies as a medical expense, necessary for the rehabilitation process. A written prescription for cranial hair prosthesis due to chemotherapy treatment or radiation, from the oncologist or family doctor can be obtained prior to shopping for a wig.
Reflecting the personal style of the woman, a wig should be a perfect blend of the latest hairstyle, attitude, lifestyle, versatility and convenience. Like anything new, a wig takes getting used to. After wearing it for a while it becomes comfortable and familiar and an essential part of her wardrobe.
Depending on the type and duration of cancer treatment, new hair will eventually start to appear. You can expect new air to grow at a rate of about a half an inch a month, and will have a slightly different colour and texture. During this regrowth period, she will find a variety of headcoverings particularly useful.
It is generally recommended not to colour or perm new hair growth until after the third haircut. This will help ensure the health of new hair and avoid the ‘frizzes’.
Some women worry about the right time to take off their wig or headwraps. Others go with their new short hairstyle as soon as they can.
Truly You Hair Solution Centre has been assisting women and children with hair loss due to chemotherapy and radiation treatments, alopecia and thinning hair for 13 years, and is a member of the Capilia Group. Amalia and her team of Hair Alternative Specialists come highly recommended by area Oncologists, Dermatologist, Social Workers, Nurses, Health Care Providers as well as satisfied clients.
There is no right or wrong time; it is up to the individual and their comfort level … Sometimes, the advice of family and friends can be helpful, but in the end, she will know when the time is right,
Other appearance related effects of cancer treatment, can be skin changes in textures and colour as well as the loss of eyebrows and eyelashes. The Look Good Feel Better Program offers a free two hour workshop in 103 locations across
Canada. This program is supported by the Canadian Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association. Each participant receives a kit with donated products by the member companies. The 12 Step teaches her how to deal with changes in skin, how to deal with eyebrow loss and overall how to enhance her appearance. To find a workshop location, go to www.lookgoodfeelbetter.ca
With these tips, a positive attitude and good self image, a woman can get through a difficult period of cancer and cancer therapy beautifully?