Brain radiotherapy and hair loss | Cancer Research UK
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Brain radiotherapy and hair loss

Nurse and patients talking about cancer

This page tells you about hair loss due to brain radiotherapy. Find out about

 

Hair loss and brain radiotherapy

Radiotherapy to the head always causes some hair loss. If you are having treatment to a particular part of your head, your hair only falls out in that area. You might also have some hair loss on the opposite side of the head, where the radiotherapy beams pass through. This area is called the exit site.

Your hair usually grows back when your treatment has finished. But it may not be quite as thick as before and in some people can be patchy. The more radiotherapy you have had, the longer your hair takes to grow back. In some people it may grow back a different colour. Or the hair may be curly when it used to be straight.

 

Hair washing tips

During your treatment, you need to wash your hair carefully so that you don't make the area sore. Use warm or cool water. 

Be gentle with your hair and use a non perfumed shampoo or baby shampoo only.

It is best not to use a hair dryer but to gently dry your hair with a soft towel. Or you can let your hair dry naturally. If the skin gets sore let your radiographer know and they can advise you on how to care for your skin.

 

Head coverings

You might like to cover your head with a soft hat or scarf to protect the exposed skin and keep your head warm. 

The video below shows you the different types of hats and scarves you can wear when you have hair loss.
 


 

View a transcript of the video showing the different types of hats and scarves you can wear. The transcript opens in a new window.

Some people prefer to wear a wig until their hair grows back. You can get a wig on the NHS or buy one privately. Speak to your radiotherapy staff who can advise you on any wigs, hats or scarves they sell in the hospital.

You might want to cut your hair short before the treatment starts. This can make the change less dramatic and easier to cope with. But speak to your doctor beforehand to check on how much hair you might lose.

 

More information about radiotherapy

Find out about

External radiotherapy

Side effects of radiotherapy

Stretchy headwear at Buffwear

Getting a wig and coping with hair loss

Books about brain tumour treatment

For general information and support

Contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040 (Open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday)

Share experiences on our online forum – Cancer Chat

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Updated: 14 March 2016