Will I lose my hair?
Hair loss from chemotherapy is different for everyone. Your oncologist will be able to give you more information about whether this will happen to you.
After starting chemotherapy, if your hair is going to fall out, it will probably do so gradually at first, and then more rapidly over the next few weeks. You may find that you’ll feel cold, even in summer, so having a beanie for day and night-time use is a good idea.
The good news is that your hair will start growing again once your treatment is completed. It will return initially as very fine, baby-fluff hair, and then gradually grow out. Most women find their hair comes back in a slightly different colour, and is often ‘wiry’ (some call this 'chemo curls') for some time until their natural hair texture returns.
Some women find that wigs, headscarves or turbans are a comforting option while waiting for their hair to grow back so this is a choice that you may like to consider.
Finding the right headwear for you
The Ministry of Health provides a subsidy for adults with temporary hair loss. This could cover the cost of scarves/hats/turbans or a synthetic wig.
The subsidy is $408.88 (GST incl) over a one-year period. If your wig costs more than this, you will need to pay the remainder. The subsidy can be claimed if you are a New Zealand citizen or ordinarily a resident in New Zealand and if you are undergoing a treatment for breast cancer that causes hair loss. To claim the subsidy you will need a Medical Certificate with your NHI number from your breast cancer specialist or oncology nurse.
The Wigs and Hairpieces Service Payment (WHSP) is administered by HealthPac on behalf of the Ministry of Health and is paid directly to the supplier of the product(s) or to you, if you’ve already purchased the product. For more information on the wigs subsidy please visit The Ministry of Health’s Wigs Subsidy or contact the HealthPac enquiry line: Freephone 0800 458 448.
Your specialist team may provide you with a list of wig suppliers in your area. Alternatively, check out the wigs, scarves and headwear category on the Breast Cancer Services Directory, or contact your local Cancer Society for help. When you have chosen your wig or headwear, the supplier will make the claim to HealthPac for you, or you can make it yourself if you prefer.
Webinar: Hair today, gone tomorrow
This webinar looks at preparing for hair loss during cancer treatment, caring for your hair during and after treatment, and scalp cooling to prevent hair loss.
How to donate your hair
If you would like to donate your hair, the company Freedom Wigs in Dunedin will give a donation to a charity of your choice. Your hair must be at least 14 inches (35.5 cm) long and cannot have been bleached, dyed or permed. This is a fantastic programme, as your hair will improve the life of New Zealanders with alopecia, cancer-related baldness and other hair loss.