Coping with Hair Loss

Dr. Denise Yardley from the Sarah Cannon Research Institute talks about the difficulties of hair loss.

Denise Yardley, M.D., Sarah Cannon Research Institute

Hair loss, I think, is very powerful – and I think the issue with patients who are facing a diagnosis of breast cancer, they realize loss of hair is not life threatening like a diagnosis of breast cancer, but when I talk to patients it is the most visible part of their therapy. The clothes and Band-Aids and garments can hide the wound from the diagnosis of breast cancer and the issues of surgery, but we really don’t have a lot to hide when you begin hair loss and it really takes a very personal issue of facing a diagnosis of breast cancer and making it very public. And I think that is very difficult for patients who are just trying to deal with their diagnosis and cope with that among themselves and with their immediate family, to now making this a very public event.

You know, I think many patients, they’ll acknowledge that they think it’s a vanity component and I tell them it really isn’t. We get used to seeing ourselves every day as we walk by a glass or a mirror and all the sudden when your hair is gone, it’s a totally different face that’s looking back at you and it adds so much, you know, in terms of bringing that diagnosis to light and such a reminder on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis for patients that it is very difficult to deal with. We use wigs and scarves but I think many patients, myself included, have had bad haircuts and, you know, are immediately aware of just the slightest amount of abnormality. To have complete loss of hair is so powerful for patients and families. For little children, it’s a whole different look to their mother and they struggle with that and that’s a real entity. It becomes almost as much as struggling with a diagnosis for many patients.

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