Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women after skin cancers. Currently, the average risk for a woman in the United States of developing breast cancer sometime in her life is approximately 12%. This means a woman has a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer, according to the America Cancer Society (ACS).1-3

A woman receiving a breast cancer diagnosis will face many decisions. Even after each treatment option has been explained, she may still struggle with selecting which option — surgery, chemotherapy (pre-, postsurgery, or both) — is best for herself. Potential side effects, such as hair loss, can add another layer to the myriad emotions that a woman may experience when starting treatment.

The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship explains hair loss following chemotherapy and radiation as a result of the atrophy of the hair follicle. Hair becomes weak and brittle and either breaks off at the surface of the scalp or falls out of the follicle. The amount of hair loss depends on the type, dose, and length of treatment.

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Hair Loss Solutions

Hair loss can be a distressing treatment side effect. Currently, women with breast cancer have many options to help them feel more comfortable with their appearance such as wigs, hats, scarves, and turbans. In addition, there are organizations that help women obtain wigs during their treatment. CancerCare‘s Wig Clinic recognizes that coping with appearance-related effects of cancer can be difficult. The Wig Clinic is an opportunity for women receiving chemotherapy for any type of cancer to receive a free wig. A wig fitter is on-hand to provide individual fittings that include discussions on hair color, style, and length, as well as caring for the wig, and to help women try different wigs to find one she is comfortable wearing. An oncology social worker is also present to provide support.

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At one fitting, a woman expressed her gratitude, saying, “You helped me find the perfect color and wig for me.” Many CancerCare clients have expressed that their wig allows them to feel fun, beautiful, and special, and they are grateful for the opportunity. Another client once said, “My experience at CancerCare was great. The staff helped me, answered my questions to the best of their ability, and made me feel comfortable trying on wigs and hats.”