Hair loss

Radiotherapy to the brain 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.

Whether or not your hair grows back depends on the type of radiotherapy you're having. For example, if you're having whole brain radiotherapy to treat your symptoms it's likely that your hair will grow back. Whereas treatment to try to cure cancer uses a high dose of radiation and so permanent hair loss is much more common. 

If your hair does grow back it may not be quite as thick as before and in some people can be patchy. 

Hair washing tips

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

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

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.

Let your radiographer know if your skin gets sore and they can advise you on how to care for it.

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

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 how much hair you might lose.

  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015

  • A comparison of men and women's experiences of chemotherapy-induced alopecia
    G Can and others
    European Journal of Oncology Nursing, 2013. Vol 17, Issue 3, Pages 255-60

  • Chemotherapy-induced alopecia and effects on quality of life among women with breast cancer: a literature review
    J Lemieux and others
    Psychooncology 2008. Vol 17, Issue 4, Pages 317-28

Last reviewed: 
10 Nov 2020
Next review due: 
10 Nov 2023

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