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Losing your Hair- Chemotherapy

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I’ve been living with cancer since my diagnosis in early 1994. I’ve lived through lots of ups and downs, remission, relapse, short, long-term and late stage side effects, conventional, alternative, complementary therapies, etc. etc.

But in all that time, I’ve never understood the issue discussed in the study linked and excerpted below- the emotional trauma of losing your hair to chemotherapy.

Yes, I lost all my hair during active therapies- chemo regimens such as:

  • vincristine
  • adriamycin
  • dexamethasone
  • busulphan
  • cytoxan
  • melphalan

My wife jokingly called me Powder.I happen to think that humor an effective coping mechanism. But that’s another post. My hair grew back a bit but I went bald like most of the men in my family.

My point is that losing my hair wasn’t traumatic for me. I just didn’t get it. So I decided to research the issue and write this post about it.

Ethnic young adult female cancer patient sipping tea while at home

After reading about the “chemotherapy-induced alopecia distressed scale” I understand the trauma felt by many women better than I used to.

When people write about losing their hair from chemotherapy, they often share their personal experiences, emotions, and coping strategies. These writings can take various forms, including blogs, social media posts, articles, poems, and even books. Here are some common themes and perspectives that people might address:


  1. Emotional Impact: Many writers express the emotional toll of losing their hair. They may talk about feelings of shock, sadness, anger, and vulnerability. They might also share their struggles with body image and self-esteem.
  2. The Reality of Treatment: Writers often describe the practical aspects of undergoing chemotherapy, including the anticipation and actual experience of hair loss. They may discuss the timeline of when it started, how quickly it occurred, and how they felt during the process.
  3. Coping Mechanisms: People frequently share strategies for coping with hair loss. This could include wearing wigs, scarves, or hats, experimenting with makeup or accessories, or embracing their baldness proudly.
  4. Support Systems: Writers often highlight the importance of support from friends, family, and healthcare professionals during this time. They may express gratitude for those who provided comfort, encouragement, and understanding.
  5. Empowerment and Resilience: Some individuals find strength in their vulnerability. They may write about the empowering aspect of facing hair loss head-on, using it as a symbol of their journey and survival.
  6. Identity and Self-Image: Hair loss can have a profound impact on one’s sense of identity. Writers may explore how this change in appearance affects their perception of self and how they navigate societal expectations.
  7. Community and Connection: Many people find solace in connecting with others who are going through similar experiences. They may share their stories to create a sense of community and provide comfort to others in similar situations.
  8. Reflections on Beauty: Some writers delve into deeper philosophical questions about beauty standards and societal norms. They may challenge conventional definitions of beauty and emphasize the importance of inner strength and resilience.
  9. Post-Treatment Reflections: After completing chemotherapy, individuals may reflect on their journey, including how they felt during the process, how they coped, and how they view themselves now.
  10. Advice for Others: Some writers offer practical advice and tips for those about to undergo chemotherapy and experience hair loss. This could include suggestions for preparing emotionally and physically, as well as recommendations for finding support.

Remember that these writings are deeply personal and reflect the unique experiences and perspectives of each individual. They can serve as a source of comfort and inspiration for others going through similar challenges.

Have you been diagnosed with cancer? What type? What stage? Any symptoms? Let me know, thanks.


David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Development and validation of Chemotherapy-induced Alopecia Distress Scale (CADS) for breast cancer patients


A psychometric scale for assessing the distress that breast cancer patients experience due to the chemotherapy-induced alopecia was developed and validated…
The total Chemotherapy-Induced Alopecia Distress Scale (CADS)
  • was moderately correlated with the body image (r = -0.47, P < 0.001),
  • more weakly correlated with the patients’ overall quality of life (QOL, r = -0.28, P < 0.001),
  • but did not correlate with self-esteem (r = -0.07, P = 0.23)…


Factor loadings of the chemotherapy-induced alopecia (CIA) distress items (n = 305)
Items Domain Factor
1 2 3 4
1. The area is itching.

Physical 0.828
2. The area is burning or prickling resulting pain.

Physical 0.804
3. I feel different from others.

Emotional 0.703 0.437
4. I feel uncomfortable and awkward to see myself in mirror.

Emotional 0.778 0.401
5. I am dissatisfied with my appearance.

Emotional 0.785 0.384
7. I lose confidence about future.

Emotional 0.807
8. I easily irritated and stressed.

Emotional 0.839
9. I feel depressed.

Emotional 0.88
10. I feel anxious.

Emotional 0.853
11. I feel lonely.

Emotional 0.772
13. I have difficulties to do personal care such as bath and make-ups.

Activity 0.391 0.532
14. I have limitations/difficulties to choose clothes.

Activity 0.36 0.638
15. I experience limitations to do leisure activities.

Activity 0.404 0.669
16. I feel sicker because of the hair loss.

Activity 0.456 0.724
17. I do not like that people find that I have cancer because of hair loss.

Activity 0.394 0.656
18. I have difficulties to concentrate such as working and reading. Activity 0.427 0.44 0.38
19. I am worried about that people would avoid me. Relationship 0.438 0.584
20. I have problems to go out for shopping and restaurants.

Activity 0.641 0.372
21. I am talking to people about my hair loss. Relationship 0.468 0.483
22. I always wear wigs or scarves to hide hair loss.

Activity 0.698
23. I am worried about relationship with family and friends.

Relationship 0.564
24. I am worried about relationship with spouse or partner.

Relationship 0.359 0.787
25. I am worried about sexual relationship with spouse or partner.

Relationship 0.77
26. I hesitate to receive chemotherapy because of alopecia Treatment 0.686
27. I feel burden of treatment/chemotherapy because of alopecia. Treatment 0.62
a This resulted in a CADS with 20 items.

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