As you battle breast cancer, you expect many changes to your body, including changes to your hair.

Your hair may thin or all fall out during chemotherapy treatment. Hair loss during chemo can add another layer of emotional distress to the treatment process. But you can take steps to manage the hair loss and prepare yourself for changes in how you look.

Learn more about how integrative oncology at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center helps those facing cancer.

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Understand Your Options

When you’re facing hair loss or thinning hair, you can try to save your hair or look for head coverings. Although losing your hair can be devastating at first, you can have fun with fashionable scarves or hats or at a wig fitting.

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Cold caps for hair loss

Cold caps are helmet-like devices kept at extremely cold temperatures that you strap on your head before, during, and after treatment. The goal of these and other scalp cooling systems is to restrict the blood vessels in your scalp to keep as much chemotherapy medicine as possible out of the hair follicles. reports that 50 to 65 percent of women who use these systems see much less hair loss than those who do not use cooling systems.

Wigs for cancer hair loss

Synthetic wigs have come a long way in both comfort and natural appearance. They’re easier to maintain and cheaper than wigs made of human hair. One key to buying a wig is to make sure that what you choose makes you feel good. Even if your friends agree the look is fantastic, make sure you’re comfortable with your new look.

Scarves and hats

Head scarves and hats are also beautiful options with a lot of versatility. Scarves can be tied to create different styles, and hats can match a range of outfits.

How to Get Started

Check your insurance

Cold caps are relatively new on the market in the United States and can be expensive. Check with your insurance provider to see if they cover any of the cost. You can also check with your cancer center to see if it has ones you can rent.

Also, check your insurance benefits for wigs. Many insurance providers will cover all or part of the cost of a wig. The American Cancer Society and other organizations may also provide financial assistance for wigs.

Prepare yourself and your family for hair loss

It often helps to cut your hair short before beginning treatment. This way you have less trauma in seeing long hair fall out.

If choosing a wig, wait until you feel truly ready to wear one before you shop. Forcing yourself into it will likely lead you to choose something you don’t like. Take supportive friends and family with you to a professional wig fitting and make a day of it.

If you have young children at home, talk to them about how your hair will change. Take them shopping for a wig or scarves with you if they would enjoy that.

Facing hair loss during chemotherapy for breast cancer is difficult. But you have options to try to maintain your hair and fashionable ways to cover your head. Whatever you choose is up to you and what makes you feel best during treatment. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family members who help you through the difficult days and go shopping with you when you’re ready.

About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.