With some oncologists suggesting that immunotherapy is, for some patients, the most effective cancer cure available, we ask the question can it cause hair loss?

 

Immunotherapy

The range of treatments that fall under the umbrella of immunotherapy all have something in common. They are an attempt to replace previous methods of treating cancer, where the use of harsh chemicals and radiation make the experience, already emotional and challenging, deeply unpleasant. One aspect in particular, the hair loss associated with these treatments, is especially unwelcome…with a small but shocking proportion of women even declining treatment on that basis alone. 

Immunotherapy, rather than directly attacking the cancer, is a biological solution that works in one of two ways. Either by boosting the immune system – with the aim of assisting the body in forming its own successful defense against the disease. Or by marking the cancer cells, which are notoriously good at hiding from the body’s defenses, in such a way that they are then attacked by the immune system.

Although not as widely implemented as a treatment as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, immunotherapy is now available for several types of cancer. 

Does It Cause Hair Loss? 

It seems a very reasonable question, given that a faulty, and over-aggressive, immune system is held to blame for many types of hair loss, from alopecia areata all the way up to the most common form, androgenetic alopecia… the genetically inherited form of hair loss that the majority of us will experience, sooner or later as dictated by those genes. 

Well, to start with it seems unlikely that the type of immunotherapy which simply marks cancerous cells for attack by the immune system are likely to have any effect… depending on how they target those cancerous cells in the first place. Chemotherapy drugs, for example, are deliberately designed to target fast-growing cells, a category which hair unfortunately falls into, and why it is so regularly a casualty. But the type which boosts the immune system might well give cause for concern. In fact, we are delighted to report that no study has hair loss featured as a reported issue. This has been backed up with a complete lack of anecdotal evidence from patients, of whom there are now many thousands, none of whom have posted or complained of the problem.

HIS Hair Clinic 

It must be an enormous comfort to so many cancer sufferers to learn that their treatment need not involve any of the three “traditional” methods, nobody wants surgery and both chemotherapy and radiation are horrendous for all involved. As previously mentioned,  there are several types of immunotherapy. Some are delivered intravenously, some come in pills, one is a cream and another is intravesical… meaning it is put directly into the bladder. All are outpatient appointments. The worst of those strikes us as better than the best of the other choices… and with no risk to hair. 

If you would like to discuss your hair loss situation with one of our team of friendly experts, simply complete our contact form on this page or click here to find your nearest clinic.

 

 

 

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By Ian Watson

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