Cancer, Chemo and Wigs

Cancer… As a young nurse just starting my career  in 1976, the prognosis for my patients was grim. Advances in medical technology have significantly changed that prognosis and many people now survive to live productive lives. Cancer accounts for nearly one-quarter of deaths in the United States, exceeded only by heart diseases.

As devastating as the news is when one learns they have cancer, losing one’s hair as a result of treatment can be just as devastating as the disease.  The good news is once treatment has been completed, unless there are other medical conditions causing hair loss, your hair will come back. Hair grows between 1/4 to 3/4 inches per month on average. Using 1/2 inch as the rule, somewhere between 3-6 months after treatment completion, you can throw your wig away! And trust me, once you feel that you have enough hair to be “socially acceptable”, you will never want to wear a wig again.

When I sold wigs, I discouraged women undergoing chemotherapy from buying human hair wigs, unless they had an allergy to synthetic wigs. The reason is this: you will be facing enough financial concerns with medical bills and a possible reduction in income while you are out on medical leave from your job. Human hair wigs are more expensive than synthetic wigs, but they also last longer when proper care is taken of them. Depending on the chemotherapy regime prescribed by the doctor,  most women only need a wig for 18 months. The average lifespan of a good synthetic wig, properly cared for, is about 4-6 months.  If you are still working and wish to maintain a consistent hairstyle, buy three of the same wig and rotate its use.  And do not hesitate to ask the wig salon owner to make a “three for one special sale”.  Most insurance companies will allow for the purchase of one wig, but some will allow the benefit to be up to $750.00. Know the limits of your insurance before you go shopping, and again…ask for a deal!

I believe in being honest, and therefore, must tell you that wearing a wig is not comfortable for most people. You learn to tolerate it at best. While undergoing chemotherapy, your scalp may become even more sensitive. Be sure to take precautions to protect your scalp by keeping it clean and moisturized.  Some people find wearing a wig liner helpful.

Thank you for reading this page and I hope this information has been helpful to you. Please feel free to comment, suggest tips, or just share your story. I appreciate hearing from you!