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It is well known that chemotherapy drugs can cause temporary hair loss. In fact, this causal relationship is so well-documented that baldness has almost become synonymous with cancer. Often, when people see a woman with noticeably thin hair or a bald head, they may assume that the woman is suffering from breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or some other form of cancer. This can be extremely difficult for those who wish to keep their health private or who are living in recovery and who have not been actively treating their cancer for years. If hair fails to regrow months or even years after chemotherapy treatments have ended, women may still be seen as cancer patients although they do not identify that way themselves.
Taxotere can cause permanent hair loss in 3-15% of women, according to different research on the topic. Permanent hair loss can be traumatizing and cause changes in identity, self-esteem, and confidence. For this reason, women often decide to style themselves in new ways after their hair loss. For example, some women choose to wear synthetic or human hair wigs, scarves, turbans, wraps, or hats, while others choose to accept the bald look and style themselves accordingly. Understanding the options for fashion after permanent hair loss can help women adjust to the long term side effects of Taxotere and take back control over their own appearance and presentation to the world.
Wigs are a common choice for many women who go through chemotherapy and experience temporary or permanent hair loss. Today, wigs can look very realistic and many people will not be able to tell that a person is wearing one if it is fitted correctly. In order to find a wig that is flattering, comfortable, and enjoyable to wear, there are a few tips that experts in the field have compiled. These tips can help women suffering from permanent hair loss find a look that works for them and makes them feel positive about their appearance.
Tips for Choosing a Wig
Most chemotherapy experts, such as medical oncologists who prescribe Taxotere and work with women going through hair loss frequently, recommend that women research and purchase wigs before their hair loss begins. They advise this for many reasons, such as the fact that hair stylists can help people match the new wig to their original hair color and texture. Cutting a swatch from your original hair before major hair loss begins can also work so that you can match the wig. In addition, experts point out that women often have much more energy before their cancer treatment begins, so they might enjoy the experience of shopping for a wig, trying on new styles, and visiting and consulting with their hair stylist more enjoyable before the side effects of their chemotherapy treatment kick in.
Unfortunately, if a woman was not prepared for long-term hair loss (if they believed that their hair was going to grow back after their chemotherapy treatment had ended), they may not have been as intentional about documenting and saving their hair. Some women accept baldness for a short period of time when they know their hair will return, but, when it never does, they must completely re-evaluate their plan. Some of these women feel rightfully angry that they were not properly able to prepare for their possible permanent hair loss through research, awareness, purchasing wigs, and beginning the process of emotional acceptance.
However, once women with permanent hair loss caused by Taxotere begin to accept their condition and their new reality, they may wish to experiment with different options of presentation using a wig. The following list represents some of the things to keep in mind while choosing a wig.
- Consider a synthetic wig. Some women may be concerned that synthetic wigs look fake; however, high-quality synthetic wigs are nearly indistinguishable from their natural counterparts, require less day-to-day care, and cost substantially less. Natural wigs run between $800 and $3,000 while synthetic wigs tend to cost between $30 and $500.
- If it is convenient and within a budget, women can consult with a wig specialist, ideally someone who works with cancer patients, who can talk them through the process of fitting and caring for their wig. This can inspire confidence and help someone style their wig in a way that flatters their face and skin tone. They can also give you tips for helping the wig stay natural and healthy looking.
- In order to avoid paying the entire cost of the wig, some women ask their doctor to prescribe them a “cranial prosthesis,” which can be partially or fully covered by insurance. Cancer information websites advise that the doctor avoids using the term “wig” on the prescription for a better chance of getting it covered. If an insurance company will not assist with the cost of the wig, there are some programs, such as the American Cancer Society, which help women to purchase wigs or provide them for free.
- Measuring the head can help ensure that the wig fits correctly. While most wigs are designed as a one-size-fits-all, those with smaller or larger heads may need to find specialty wigs.
- Most wigs are designed for those with some level of hair. For this reason, it is particularly important to find a wig that has a soft and comfortable cap, designed to rest against skin for long periods of time. Wigs can be attached with tape, velcro, or elastic bands which can be adjusted for comfort.
- Short-haired wigs are easier to care for and can be more secure, although they are not the only option. In addition, it is advised to find a wig somewhat lighter than the patient’s natural color with highlights if possible to make the wig appear more natural. Wigs are usually thicker than a person’s natural hair and may appear darker, even if the strands of hair are the same color.
Scarves, Turbans, and Wraps
Sometimes, people with permanent hair loss decide that scarves, head wraps, or other accessories work better for them. Wigs can be uncomfortable for some people, as they do tend to cause the scalp to sweat, and they can itch if worn for long periods of time. In addition, some women choose to vary their headwear from day to day to give their scalps a break from wearing a wig, or simply because they enjoy the freedom to style themselves.
Head scarves and wraps come in a variety of designs, colors, patterns, and styles, and are much less expensive than wigs, which can cost hundreds of dollars and do need to be replaced fairly regularly. It is possible to use scarves and wraps which are not designed for women with hair loss, but there are also many shops both online and in person that sell headwear specially designed for women going through chemotherapy. These stores can provide not only products but also information on fitting, styling, and caring for the items purchased. Often these businesses are run by women who have experienced hair loss from chemotherapy and are focused on supporting their customers physically and emotionally.
Eyebrows and Eyelashes
In addition to partial or complete baldness on the scalp, some women can also permanently lose their eyebrows, eyelashes, and other hair on the body after taking Taxotere. The lack of eyelashes and/or eyebrows can be particularly noticeable and can cause unwanted attention from strangers. In addition, it is surprising how much our eyebrows help us express emotional states such as fear, anger, joy, and interest in a topic. Some women, therefore, choose to employ false eyebrows and/or eyelashes, and those who do can choose from a variety of options, such as
- Human hair eyebrows, which can be attached with glue and removed at the end of the day, and they will last for 2-4 months of use.
- Tattooed eyebrows. Permanent tattoos can be done professionally by a tattoo artist, some of whom specialize in eyebrow realism, but the tattoo will fade over time and need to be redone. Alternatively, women can use temporary tattoos which can be applied in the home.
- Makeup, which is sold specifically for drawing eyebrows. This includes stencils, pencils, and powders, and the look of the eyebrow can be changed daily if desired.
- False eyelashes, which can be applied with glue on a daily basis and removed at the end of the day and can be blended with makeup to look more natural around the eye
Coming to Terms with Hair Loss
Sometimes part of the healing process after chemotherapy and during cancer remission is learning to adjust to the reality of a new physical appearance. For women who have taken Taxotere and believed that their hair would grow back months after chemotherapy was completed, permanent hair loss can be even more devastating. Adding insult to injury, these women often only then discover that there is an alternative taxane chemotherapy drug, Taxol, which is repeatedly proven to work just as effectively as Taxotere without causing hair loss. Eventually, these women may choose to add their voice to the growing number of people protesting Sanofi-Aventis’ lack of transparency and file a lawsuit. Call trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian today at 800-529-6162 to learn more, or contact us online.